by Anne Calder | Photos by Daphne Backman
The U.S. National Championship Senior Rhythm Dance was performed for the first time without a pattern. It was replaced by the Choreographic Rhythm Sequence with a base value of 2.00.
Reigning U.S. Ice Dance Champions, Madison Chock & Evan Bates closed the Rhythm Dance segment with samba, rhumba, samba to “Let’s Dance by David Bowie (Remix by Ben Liebrand). The Montreal-based team earned level 4 for the twizzles, lift and Pattern Steps. Both Midline Step Sequences were level 3. The new Choreographic Rhythm Sequence received all 4 and 5 GOE marks and a total panel score of 9.07. The program totaled 91.90.
Chock explained their music. “It’s a twist on Latin. We were looking for something unique that we hadn’t heard before.”
Caroline Green & Michael Parsons scored 81.40 for their program to “Vocalizando” by Alessandro Oliviato, “Historia De Un Amor” by Cesaria Evora and “Boutique” by Watazu. The dance earned level 4 for the twizzles and lift. Both Midline Step Sequences were level 3. The team made a major move this season from their long-time WISA training site to the Michigan Ice Dance Academy (MIDA) in Canton.
“In a year of lots of change for us, it feels good to be back in a familiar place,” Parsons said. “We’re really very happy with the progression of our season. We’ve done a lot this year in terms of growth as a team, and we really showed that on the ice today. It’s a good first step.”
“We definitely left some points on the table in terms of the technical side of things, but it gives us clarity with what we need to work on and shift the focus [to the Free Dance] now that we’re comfortable out there and feeling all the energy of a Nationals,” Green said.
The range of scores for the next seven teams was 78.18 – 72-80 – only 5.38 points separated teams three to nine.
Making their U.S. National Championships debut, Emilea Zingas & Vadym Kolesnik danced into third place to “Congo” by Gloria Estefan, “Tan Sola” by Sole Gimenez and “Congo” by Meek Mill. Their lift and Pattern Steps earned level 4. The team scored 78.18.
Kolesnik is the 2020 Junior World Champion with partner Avonley Nguyen. Zingas spent 13 years honing her skills in singles prior to making the move to ice dance.
“The first time I skated with Emy, I felt something special. I felt I can be myself and skate the way I want to skate. That’s how it comes out,” Kolesnik explained about his more carefree and new-found freedom to his skating.
“We had an amazing time performing today,” Zingas said. “This is our first Nationals together and my first Nationals as an ice dancer. It’s also our first Senior National experience.”
Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko selected “Kind of Latin Rhythm” by the Juju Orchestra, “Where do I Begin” by Shirley Bassey and “Samba” by Gloria Estefan. The duo’s lift and her twizzle received level 4. Both Midline Step Sequences were level 3. The Pattern Steps and his twizzle were level 2. The total segment scored 77.37. The team trains in London, Ontario Canada with I.AM.
“The score is a translation of what we’ve done leading up to the event,” Ponomarenko said. “All the preparation we’ve done working on our skating skills. We had a major mistake [his twizzle], but overall we’re still very happy with the progress we’re making and look to capitalize on that.”
Lorraine McNamara & Anton Spiridonov danced to “Careless Whisper” by George Michaels and scored 76.23. The twizzles and lift earned level 4. The Pattern Steps and his Midline Step Sequence were level 3. The Virginia-based team is fresh off winning the silver medal at the recent 2023 World Winter University Games in Lake Placid.
“We thought the score would be a bit higher, but that’s ok because we showed a great improvement over last year,” Spiridonov noted. “The scores don’t matter. It’s not an Olympic year. Ever since we got back to training after last year, we’ve been improving, and we’ll continue to improve. We know where we want to move. We have a plan.”
Canton, Michigan based (MIDA) Emily Bratti & Ian Somerville chose the music of “Gadda Rio” and “Hip Hip Chin Chin” by Club Des Belugas, “Con mi Sombra” by S-Tone Inc. for their dance. The twizzles and lift were level 4. The Pattern Steps and her Midline Step Sequence were level 3. The total segment scored 75.91.
Eva Pate & Logan Bye performed to “Beautiful Creatures” by Barbatuques, Andy Garcia and Rita Moreno, “Fly Love” by Jamie Foxx and “Real in Rio” by the Rio Singers. The lift, his twizzle and Midline Step Sequence earned level 4. The Pattern step, her twizzle and Midline Step Sequence were level 3. The segment scored 75.52.
Isabella Flores & Ivan Desyatov danced to “Tiburon” by Proyecto Uno and “03 Bonnie and Clyde” by Jay-Z and Beyoncé. The lift, twizzles and his Midline Step Sequence earned level 4. The Colorado Springs-based duo scored 73.91 while skating at their first US Championships together as a senior team.
“We were focusing on just performing,” Flores said. “Skating in front of such a large audience made it very special for us. On a stage like this where everyone is so talented, it’s easy to doubt yourself, and you start skating down. It’s something we did well today, and it’s something we’ll work on in our future competitions.”
Oona Brown & Gage Brown chose “Bones” by Imagine Dragons for their senior debut at the US Nationals. The reigning World Junior Champions earned level 3 for the twizzles, Pattern steps, and his Diagonal Step Sequence. The lift earned level 4. The total segment scored 72.80.
“There were a few small mistakes, but over all we’re pretty pleased component wise,” Gage said. “As for being confident,” Oona added “even if we’re not confident, it’s important to make it look like we are.” “In this case we were confident,” added Gage.
Rafaella Koncius & Alexey Shchepetov withdrew from the competition.
SENIOR FREE DANCE
The Free Dance began Saturday morning at 10:45 a.m. with Chock & Bates in a commanding 10-point lead. The order of podium positions would depend on the final performances by the dancers.
Three hours later the medals were awarded to the following: Chock & Bates (gold), Green & Parsons (silver) Carreira & Ponomarenko (bronze) and Zingas & Kolesnik (pewter)
Chock & Bates danced last, but finished first to “Souffrance” by Orange Blossom and “Tectoniques” by Jorane, a Montreal artist. The story was originally inspired by their engagement and her 1920 vintage ring that belonged to someone very long ago. It got them thinking how love transcends the physical and spiritual world, and how you can find one another. Since Skate America, the program has evolved into a relationship more between the spirits of fire and air and impossible survival for one without the other.
“We’re very happy with the way our program has developed since the beginning of the season,” Chock said. “It’s found its groove. We’ve let the program speak to us, and we’ve evolved with it. We’ve not been afraid to adapt and work with new material and keep pushing ourselves to make something that we feel is very special.”
The 2022 World silver medalists received all but two GOE marks of four and five and 15 perfect 10.00s for Program Components. All the required elements earned level 4 except their Level 3 One foot Turns. The segment scored 137.85 and totaled 229.75. The margin between first and second place was 22.29.
“This is probably the best we’ve ever skated in our careers,” Bates said on NBC. “I think that’s the statement that we wanted to make.”
Green & Parsons won silver with a creative Jazz Age dance to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”. The MIDA trained team earned level 4 twizzles, spin and lifts. GEOs were all three, four and five. The Program Components averaged above nine. The 2022 Four Continents gold medalists scored 126.06 for the Free Dance and a total of 207.46
“This was a very significant National Championship to us because of the way we’ve approached the season and how we wanted to redirect ourselves as a team,” Parsons said. “I don’t think we could have put out a better skate today, and I’m so happy with the work we we’ve put in the past few months with our new coaches.”
Carreira & Ponomarenko are the 2023 bronze medalists. Their music selection includes “Rainy Streets” and “Public Disquiet” by Backbone and two versions of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” one by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald and the other by 101 String Orchestra.
The twizzles, rotational and curve lifts, dance spin and his One Foot Turn earned level 4. Both Diagonal Step Sequences and her One Foot Turn were level 3. The segment scored 121.08 and totaled 198.45.
In February 2022, Ponomarenko underwent surgery and rehab in Colorado Springs for an old ankle sprain that also caused joint damage. Meanwhile Carreira continued to train in London, Ontario until he returned in May. The team resumed training in June. Since their preparation for the new season was delayed, they did not compete until November 11-13 at the GP Series event in Sheffield, Great Britain, where they finished fourth.
“We are really honored to be on this podium since the US Ice Dance is so strong now,” said Carreira. We’ve been working really hard these last few months and we’re really happy with how we skated today. We’re really excited.”
Zingas & Kolesnik performed their Free Dance to Music from Phillip Glass. The pewter medalists earned level 4 for the spin, lifts, and twizzles. The Diagonal Step and One Foot Turns were all level 3. The segment scored 119.95 and totaled 198.13, narrowly missing the bronze by .32 points.
“We changed our Free Dance so much that it’s unrecognizable,” said Zingas. “Now it’s a little bit more modern.”
The former singles skater won the 2018 US National Novice silver medal the last time the event was held in San Jose.
On being back at the U.S. Championships again in San Jose, Zingas noted, “It’s been really surreal for me. I competed here at Nationals five years ago as a novice, so it’s been a full circle. I feel extremely honored to be here and to stand next to the people we sat next to at the press conference.”
Emily Bratti & Ian Somerville (189.84) dancing to La La Land selections and Lorraine McNamara & Anton Spiridonov (189.15) dancing to ”Rain, In Your Black Eyes” by Ezio Bosso were a very close fifth and sixth, separated by only .69 points.
- Chock & Bates set two U.S. Championship records for highest-ever FD and total scores.
- Chock & Bates have stood on the Podium 11 times – all but one were first or second. (2018, 3rd place)
- Green & Parsons earned their best-ever senior result at the U.S. Championships, setting new personal bests for the free skate and overall score.
- Carreira & Ponomarenko earned their best-ever senior result at the U.S. Championships, setting new personal bests for the free skate and over all score.
- Zingas & Kolesnik earned their first U.S. Championships medal, setting new personal bests for the free skate and overall score.
- Caroline Green spoke about her Free Dance costume color change to hot deep pink. “In the beginning we thought about this color, but decided “Rhapsody in Blue” should have a blue dress. I don’t know if the ice is so bright, but I felt the blue color we chose faded into the background. We needed something eye catching. Royal blue was in the conversation, but it was a joint team effort, and this is what came out of it.”
- At the 2022 Ice Dance Final, Cara Murphy and Joshua Levitt missed the National’s qualifier by .26. When Molly Cesanek & Yegor Yegoror withdrew in mid December, the Pittsburg-based team got the call. After the Final, they had felt their best FD and total score were a good end to the season. They were very excited to have another chance to improve the Rhythm Dance score. They changed the entire first song to “Last Dance” by Donna Summer and moved the twizzles to the second element. Their changes improved the score by over two points.
- Caroline Depietri & TJ Carey did not qualify for the 2023 U.S. Nationals. Depietri continued training and Carey officially retired. Then Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker withdrew from Nationals. Depietri was in Florida, and Carey had just returned from volunteering at the University Games in Lake Place. On January 17 an email arrived inviting them to San Jose. The former partners agreed it was doable. Depietri flew home, and they trained every day until arriving at Nationals for their senior team debut.
- The Senior ice dancers had only practice on Friday, but Vadym Kolesnik doesn’t like to go out and do something until after the competition ends. “It’s something in my nature,” he said. “I don’t like to go out because one time I did and twisted my ankle trying to get out of a chair, so I try not to go.”
- On the other hand, after their disappointing Rhythm Dance, Junior Ice Dance Champions Leah Neset & Artem Markelov visualized the program, The Pirates of the Caribbean, and went to the ocean. A good place to visualize.