Senior international season starts in Salt Lake City

14W-FD-3362-HD-RR 595by Melanie Hoyt | Photo by Robin Ritoss

The 2014-2015 international season will begin for senior dance teams this week with the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City. Only seven teams are scheduled to compete this week, but with recent revisions to the requirements, the dance event is still eligible to be part of the ISU’s new Challenger Series. This allows skaters to earn more world standings points at the more competitive Senior B events. All seven teams on the roster train in the United States or Canada, though they represent five countries.

Sara Hurtado & Adria Diaz, a Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon-trained team, should challenge for the title this week. After a breakthrough season that saw them qualify for the Olympic Games and win over skating fans around the world with their “Surviving Picasso” free dance, the skating world cannot wait to see what they will bring to the ice this year. The Spanish dancers should feel at home with their Paso Doble and flamenco, choreographed in Spain by Antonio Najarro. They plan to take on a lighter tone with their free dance to music from “Atonement,” telling a story of “The Three Faces of Love.” Hurtado & Diaz have struggled in the past with levels, especially early in the season, but if their technique is good this week, they could set themselves apart from the rest of the field.

Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton are expected to lead the home team at their season debut. For the first time, Aldridge & Eaton skipped the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships (LPIDC) in favor of preparing for the season. They made a coaching change this year, moving to the Artic Edge Ice Arena in Canton, Mich., to work with Marina Zoueva. Massimo Scali, one of their coaches at the Detroit Skating Club, also moved to Canton. Aldridge & Eaton are the reigning Four Continents bronze medalists and placed fifth at the U.S. Championships last season. This year, they have chosen selections from “Carmen” for the short dance and selections from “Gone with the Wind” for the free dance.

Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus will also represent Team USA in Salt Lake City. This will be their third appearance at this event, having placed sixth and eighth in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Cannuscio & McManus competed well in Lake Placid last month, and were especially striking in their Paso Doble short dance, which won Group A with a score of 51.68. Their free dance, which scored 77.16 at LPIDC, is set to “Danse Macabre” and a selection from “Young Frankenstein.” While Cannuscio & McManus continue to work primarily with longtime coach Karen Ludington, they also spent time this summer training with Dubreuil & Lauzon.

Canadians Nicole Orford & Thomas Williams should also be in the hunt for a medal, perhaps even the gold, if they skate well. They began their season at BC SummerSkate last month, where they scored 54.60 and 86.47 in the short and free dances. For the first time, Orford & Williams worked with choreographer Mark Pillay on their free dance. It is set to music from “Titanic” and features some new highlights and a different look from what they have had in the past. They won the bronze medal at this event last year, before going on to place fifth at both the Canadian Championships and the Four Continents Championships. They train in Burnaby, B.C., with Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe.

Mariève Cyr & Benjamin Brisebois Gaudreau will join Orford & Williams on Team Canada for their first senior international event. Cyr & Brisebois Gaudreau competed on the Junior Grand Prix series in 2012 and were ninth at their first senior-level Canadian Championships last year. Their modern take on the free dance, which uses the popular song “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic, gives them a different look from other teams. They have already competed twice this season, at LPIDC and the Québec Summer Championships, where they improved upon their LPIDC marks and scored 50.52 and 80.14 in the short and free dances. Shawn Winter & Élise Hamel coach Cyr & Brisebois Gaudreau in Pierrefonds, Que.

Tatiana Kozmava & Aleksandr Zolotarev of Georgia and Pilar Maekawa Moreno & Leonardo Maekawa Moreno of Mexico round out the roster. Kozmava & Zolotarev train in Montclair, N.J., with Kristen Fraser & Igor Lukanin, while the Maekawa Morenos split their time between Canton, Mich., and their hometown of Victoria, B.C., with Marina Zoueva and Matt Willis, respectively.

The dance event begins with the short dance on Friday afternoon and the competition will conclude with the free dance on Saturday night.