15SC-RR-5239by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss

Lethbridge, AB hosted the second event in the Grand Prix Series October 30 – November 1.  The Canadian prairie city is one hour north of the Montana, USA border and two hours southeast of Calgary, home of the 1988 Olympics.   Eight teams from five countries competed in ice dance.

Day 1 – Short Dance – October 30, 2015

The 2015 World Bronze medalists, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje led after the Short Dance. The reigning Canadian champions debuted a new program skated to Johann Strauss classics – “The Blue Danube” and “Annen-Polka” – and scored a season best 68.00.

For the second GP in a row, the highest ISU ranked team in the competition introduced a new short dance.  Madison Chock & Evan Bates did so at Skate America. Both teams had received feedback about their choice of rhythms, so made immediate changes. Each new program won the short dance at its GP competition.

The Canadian couple opened with a level 4-curve lift followed by the Waltz patterns, twizzles, and footwork that earned level 3. In the Kiss and Cry, Weaver smiled and told Poje, “Good Job”.

Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani (USA) were second with a season best 66.00. Their twizzles earned level 4 and received all 2’s and 3’s from the judges and an 8.10 GOE score.  Maia later expressed her approval in the Kiss and Cry. “The twizzles were right on!”

Maia Shibutani portrayed both the dancing doll and the female character, Swinilda, in the comic ballet, Coppelia by Léo Delibes.  Her marionette-like movements and facial animation seamlessly transported her back and forth between roles.

The program showed off a light and humorous side to their personalities. Cheryl Yeager, who danced the same role with the American Ballet Theatre in the eighties, collaborated with the siblings to integrate the stage ballet with their short ice dance.

Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUS) danced into third place with a dramatic performance to “Masquerade Waltz” and the “Dance of the Knights”. Soloviev had knee surgery in 2014 and was off ice all last season. Skate Canada was their first international event since the Sochi Olympics.

The 2013 World bronze medalists earned level 4 for their twizzles and one Waltz pattern. The other elements were level 3. The short dance score was 64.38.

Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (ITA) were fourth with 61.29, followed by Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam (CAN), 57.55 and Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin (RUS), 57.44. 

Day 2 – Free Dance – October 31, 2015

Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje defended their Skate Canada title with a dramatic interpretation of the haunting melodies of “On the Nature of Daylight” by Max Richter and “Walk” and “Run” by Ludovico Einaudi. After the Finlandia Cup, the team worked to improve their emotional presentation and the judges rewarded them with a season best 105.79 score.

Weaver & Poje are determined to make amends for two straight disappointing World Championship results. In 2014 they finished .02 behind the winners.  Last season the Canadian champions won every international event they entered and were favorites to capture gold in Shanghai. However, they were blindsided by the French and American teams and went home with a bronze medal. It was difficult to accept, but they analyzed their programs and learned what needed to be improved.

Before the World Championships, however, they need to defend their Grand Prix Final title in Barcelona, Spain. Their next skate to earn qualifying points is at the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow where they will face tough competition from the 2014 World Champions and several strong Russian teams.

Silver medalists Maia Shibutini & Alex Shibutini collaborated with Peter Tchernyshev for their Coldplay, “Fix You” program after having great success with his choreography on last season’s exhibition number. The combination spin, twizzles and lifts earned level 4 while the less challenging footwork was level 3. The program earned a 102.36 season best score.

The Shibutani siblings had the highest TES marks in both the SD and FD.  The 2015 US silver medalists next compete at the NHK Trophy where they face the 2015 World Champions.

Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUS) were proud of their bronze medal, but mostly were just excited to be competing at an international event after last season’s absence. The 2013 European champions performed a dramatic dance to the Anna Karenina soundtrack.

The costumes and expressive facial angst added credence to their interpretation of the epic Tolstoy novel of love between a married socialite and a cavalry officer.The program earned a season best 96.73 score with level 4 twizzles, lifts and spin. The step sequences were level 2 and 3.

Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (ITA) finished fourth with 93.45 points, followed in fifth place by Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin (RUS) with 90.13 and Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam (CAN) sixth with 86.37 points.

Nikolaj Sorensen’s bloodstained shirt was not a Halloween trick. The Danish ice dancer cut his hand during the free program and required four stitches.

Final Placement     Grand Prix Points
 1.  173.79 – Weaver & Poje  (15)
 2.   168.36 – Shibutani & Shibutani  (13)
 3.  161.11 – Bobrova & Soloviev  (11)
 4.  154.74 – Guignard & Fabbri  (09)
 5.  147.57 – Monko & Khaliavin  (07)
 6.  143.57 – Paul & Islam  (05)
 7.  134.94 – Fournier Beaudry & Sorensen
 8.  131.05 – Paradis & Ouellette