by Jacquelyn Thayer | Photo by Robin Ritoss
The 2013 event in Saint John, New Brunswick, marked a record-setting Skate Canada International for Canadian ice dance: for the first time in the competition’s 40-year history, three Canadian ice dance teams finished within the top five. Even more impressively, all three entries placed in the top four in the free dance. The competition, overall, was a solid one, with a range of teams attaining personal bests and several performances lighting up the crowd.
As expected, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (pictured, right) captured their fifth Skate Canada International title at what is likely to be their last trip to the event. Their free dance to Alexander Glazunov’s “Seasons” and Alexander Scriabin’s “Piano Concerto in F-sharp minor”—now on its twenty-fifth musical cut, according to Virtue—showed development from its debut outing at Finlandia Trophy, the score of 107.88 a more than 7-point increase on that event’s mark. While their PCS grew by one point to 57.46, most of their score bump could be credited to cleaned-up levels. However, this skate, too, left room for further improvement as the season progresses: the team earned a Level 3 on their second rotational lift and a Level 2 in the diagonal step sequence and hit a snag in the choreographic lift, though the impact on that element’s GOE was minimal.
“We felt like we had that attack again on the ice,” Moir said. “For Tessa and I, it’s really about creating a moment with this program, and we thought we were able to do that for ourselves and, hopefully, the fans felt it as well.”
The performance was an emotional one for the couple, who have sought to construct a tribute to their career history with the program, while also making one final new mark on the sport with the choice of a never-before-used musical selection.
“We had listened to, you know, every major piece of music, whether it was “Romeo & Juliet,” “Pride & Prejudice,” “Swan Lake,” and I think as much as we loved some of those pieces, they all have such well-known storylines,” Virtue said. “One of the things that we loved about Glazunov is that it was a connection to Russia, with a Russian composer, but it gave us freedom to make our own story.”
Taking their second career Skate Canada International silver—they were also second in 2011—Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje also picked up the evening’s best technical mark with a 51.67 to Virtue & Moir’s 51.42, courtesy of Level 3s on both step sequences and their choreographic lift earning a very strong GOE of 1.13. Even more notably, the team established a new personal best free dance mark of 104.88, far exceeding their previous best of 100.18 set at the 2012 World Championships.
“Despite a few balance checks here and there, we felt like we stayed true to the characters, which was one of our biggest goals, and we also achieved very high levels, which was another goal,” Weaver said. “So I think that we definitely got this program out on the right foot.”
The couple’s free dance, a narrative tango to selections from Astor Piazzolla’s operetta “Maria de Buenos Aires,” was another audience success, with the team delivering a powerful performance. The choice to take a less-expected approach to tango was aided by musical input from Shae-Lynn Bourne, and came as a deliberate play to the team’s strengths and focuses.
“We wanted to make sure that when we did a tango, we didn’t want to do a typical tango, because a lot of those have been overdone,” Poje said. “So we tried to create a little bit more of a lyrical side to it and show more of a story between a man and a woman. I feel like this music allows us to do that.”
For Americans Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, the strain of a packed competitive schedule—and Hubbell taking an accidental elbow to the head in practice the morning of the free dance—was not enough to dampen the conclusion of their Grand Prix series. The team captured their first medal on the circuit, a bronze, along with a new personal best free dance score of 92.28, just .01 better than that set at the previous week’s Skate America, and total of 153.20.
“Without being able to take a day off for a few weeks now, it’s really come to a point where skating tonight was a question of if I could get through it,” Hubbell said. “It’s been a hard month going from event to event. We’re very tired, have aches and pains, we’ve been dealing with a few issues, and I think that we feel very confident knowing that we can skate a strong free dance, no matter what the circumstances might be.”
Their lyrical free dance to Lucia Micarelli’s “Nocturne into Bohemian Rhapsody,” while a stylistic departure for the team, has been well-received. Its score has risen with each event, perhaps pointing to a growing ease with the program.
“We’re both very comfortable with this program,” Donohue said. “We love both the music and the choreography. It feels so natural. I think, more than a run-through, it’s the joy for us to be able to go out and perform. So to be able to end our night after a free like that on a high note with our first medals is pretty exciting for us.”
Third Canadian entries Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam, who finished in fifth place overall with a personal best total of 143.77, made an impressive comeback from the short dance. They ranked fourth in the free with a new ISU personal best of 90.03, more than two points higher than their previous mark set three years ago at 2010 Skate Canada International. The couple achieved those scores courtesy of the third-highest TES in the event, racking up Level 4s on most elements and Level 3s on the step sequences, a first for the team in senior international competition.
“We had some issues technically in the short and it was nice to come out in the free dance and kind of take care of those technical marks,” Islam said. “We really made sure that our elements were clean and that really assisted us in getting the score that we did and we’re really proud of it.”
Their free dance to selections from Abel Korzeniowski’s scores for “W.E”. and “A Single Man” emphasizes frequent change of closed holds and a variety of dance styles, deliberate choices on the part of the team and choreographers Anjelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo.
“When we constructed the program, we wanted to take pieces from this movie, pieces that we knew from the past that we were really strong at in terms of performance,” Islam said. “So, we took the tango, we have the waltz, and we have kind of an epic at the end. They’re all things that we think we really excel at, performance-wise, and that’s definitely something we considered when we were putting the program together and, so far, it’s working out quite well.”
2012 Skate Canada International bronze medalists Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko of Russia wrapped this year’s event in fourth place overall with a total of 145.56, but finished fifth in the free dance with a score of 85.77 points for their program to “Phantom of the Opera,” a musical choice that, at times, seemed to slightly overpower the choreography. Although they received the fourth-best PCS of the competition, the dance was primarily impacted on the technical end, most notably due to a short rotation for Riazanova in the first set of twizzles, which received a negative GOE of -0.25. The duo also picked up Level 3s on both their rotational and straight-line lifts. But as one of only two teams here not to have previously competed their free dance at an earlier event this season, a more polished performance seems likely for the duo’s second Grand Prix outing at Rostelecom Cup.
Germany’s Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi fell from fifth place in the short to sixth overall with an 82.25 point free dance, a narrative continuation of the comedic story that began in the short. In their dances, a glamorous lady meets and spends an evening with a “nerd” whom she ultimately rejects. The free dance is set to “Carrigan & Dips” and “Mrs. ES Dancecard” and capped by a spritely cover of Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood.” While the program, like the short, played to the team’s strengths in character-based performance, their elements and skating itself were rougher. Gazsi wobbled in the second set of twizzles, resulting in a Level 3 with negative GOE on the element, and the team also picked up a Level 2 on a somewhat unsteady combination spin, as well as an extended lift deduction. The team did, however, improve a bit upon their score from their last outing at Ondrej Nepela Trophy, and will subsequently be competing at Trophée Eric Bompard.
Charlène Guignard & Marco Fabbri of Italy pulled up a spot in the free dance, finishing seventh overall and in the segment with an 82.25 free dance that included mostly Level 4 elements, with Level 2s on both step sequences. The couple’s theatrical program to Prokofiev’s “Romeo & Juliet,” though skated somewhat roughly at points, was a decent showing for the team. They are in contention for Italy’s second berth to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games; Guignard, originally of France, recently received her Italian citizenship.
After a sixth-place short dance, Russians Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin struggled in their “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” free, finishing eighth in the segment and the event overall with a program score of 77.49. While they executed their first element, the twizzles, with good unison, picking up a strong GOE of 1.00, the program took a downturn with a fall for Stepanova in the straight-line lift. The incident resulted in a mandatory 1-point deduction as well as a Level 2 for that element and a maximum negative GOE of -1.50. The mistake may have affected their attack in the rest of the program; the two also received Level 2s for both step sequences and a Level 3 on the rotational lift. This was the only Grand Prix assignment for the 2013 World Junior champions, though the team has a chance to receive a later Grand Prix assignment, in the event of a withdrawal.