1516gpfarticle-wp-rrby Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss

The ISU Figure Skating Grand Prix Final was held in Barcelona, Spain December 10-12. Six ice dance teams from four countries competed for $68,000 in prize money.

SHORT DANCE All six teams earned season best scores. Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (CAN) waltzed to the familiar Blue Danube and Annenpolka. The reining World bronze medalists earned level 4 for both Ravensburg Waltz patterns. The partial step sequence footwork was rated a level 3, but received a 2.30 GOE mark from the judges, the highest score for that element in the short dance. The first place score was 72.75.

“This program is fairly new, and we’re looking to gain valuable mileage with it every time we’re out there,” Weaver said. “The crowd helped us build energy and atmosphere; they helped us find extra oomph at the end,” Poje added.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA) were second. The 2015 World silver medalists danced the foxtrot and waltz to “More” by Andre Bocelli and Il Divo’s “Unchained Melody”. The final move – a spectacular curve lift – earned 8 +3 GOE marks from the judges and loud applause from the audience. The twizzles, lift, and one pattern received level 4. “The crowd was absolutely amazing, so spirited and lively, and we felt the energy while skating. Also, the announcer is awesome,” Chock said. 

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (ITA) performed the waltz and polka to The Merry Widow operetta by Franz Lehár and earned level 4 for the patterns, twizzles and rotational lift. The team was not entirely satisfied with their third place performance that scored 70.84 points. “We made a little mistake on the twizzles,” Lanotte noted.  “There was just one twizzle too many. The levels were good, but we can improve. We can go smoother through the compulsory dance, and we need more power at the end and during the partial step sequence.” “We are definitely looking to improve things in the short program,” Cappellini added.

Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani (USA) danced to the comic ballet, Coppélia by Leo Delibes. Maia masterfully played the roll of a hand-made doll that has come to life. The twizzles and rotational lift earned level 4, but the waltz patterns were graded level 3. The score was 69.11.

Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA) skated to “Hallelujah” by k.d. lang. The spectacular curve lift, both patterns, and strong twizzle sequence earned level 4. The fifth place program scored 66.21.

Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUS) placed sixth with a 65.43 score. Their dramatic performance to the Masquerade Waltz and Dance of the Knights earned level 4 for the twizzles, rotational lift and both waltz patterns.  

FREE DANCE

Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (CAN) reached deep into their collective psyche and released a powerfully passionate performance to win their second straight GPF title. The Bitter Earth music and the multi shades of grey costumes reflected the wide range of emotions experienced by the characters portrayed by the skaters.

“Our free dance has gone through constant evolution and the story has evolved as well with the choreography and feelings and music and costumes, “ Weaver said.

The twizzles, spin, and two lifts earned level 4. The judges rewarded the strong execution of the level 3 step sequences with 2.99 (diagonal) and 2.67 (circular) GOE points The Michigan-based team expressed fulfillment in their performance.

“Today we skated with our hearts.  That was severely lacking in Russia (Rostelecom Cup).  We were connected, and that is the best zone we could be in,” Weaver noted. The free dance scored a personal best 109.91. The total was 182.66.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA) placed third in the free program with a strong performance to Rachmaninov’s Concerto No. 2, a piece of music that Bates told the press has never been used for ice dance before.

“Our coach, Igor Shpilband brought us the idea last season,” Bates explained.  It challenged us because we knew we had to rise to it.  So far, we haven’t had that technical and emotional combination we want to have on the ice.”

“We’ve changed about 50 percent of the program in the last month,” Bates added.  We’ve never faced that challenge before, but it will push us to match the intensity of the music and help us grow as a couple. It’s going to be a lot of work.”

The reigning GPF silver medalists earned level 4 for the spin and lifts. The step sequences, which have the highest base value, were level 3.  Chock had an unfortunate stumble on a twizzle, but the team still got a season’s best 105.91 and remained in second place with 177.55 points.

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (ITA) used an animated performance to selections from the La Dolce Vita soundtrack to place second in the free program. The music showed off their perky personalities and encouraged the enthusiastic audience to clap along.

The 2014 World Champions earned level 4 for five elements and level 3 for the step sequences. For the third time in the 2015 Grand Prix series, Cappellini & Lanotte had a -1 extended lift deduction.

“We are trying to improve our free dance, to get rid of the minus one we have had in basically every competition,” Lanotte pointed out.  “So before Europeans, we need to figure out how to take that away.”

“We left a few points on the table, so we definitely want to change that for the future,” Cappellini added.

The free dance received 106.23 points, and they remained in third place with a 176.37 total score.

Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani (USA) skated to Coldplay’s, “Fix You” choreographed by five-time US Dance Champion, Peter Tchernyshev. The contemporary program gained momentum throughout and allowed the audience to energize the 2015 US National silver medalists. At the end of the program, Alex fell to one knee, and Maia brushed away tears.  The cheering audience thought the siblings were overcome with emotion after a draining performance. However, in the mixed zone, Maia Shibutani gave a health report about her brother.

“I am so proud of Alex,” Maia said.  “He is not with me right now because starting late last night he was not feeling well, and he has been extremely sick since then. We weren’t able to do much at practice, but he said from the start he wanted to push through.”

The program earned 105.71 points and the siblings remained in fourth place with a season best 174.72 score.

Ekaterina Bobova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUS) gave a dramatic interpretation of the Russian masterpiece, Anna Karenina. It was theatre on ice as the couple first captivated the audience, and then guided them through the entire novel while they remained in character to the very end. The team had sat out the entire last season due to Soloviev’s knee surgery.

“Nobody thought that we’d come back,” Bobrova said.  “At the beginning of the season, we didn’t even know if we (would) get two Grand Prix events. We got two, but we didn’t think we’d make the GPF. This season is like a ladder for us.  We still have to climb it up.”

The performance scored 101.30 and allowed them to move up to fifth place. The total was 166.73.

Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA) used Daft Punk’s “Adagio for Strings” Tron soundtrack to tell the story of a broken man who is guided by an angel.

“It’s a journey through life,” explained Hubbell. After a dramatic opening scene and strong, tight twizzles, the couple exited the curve lift only to have their program story become a reality.

“My foot was an inch different from usual, so I went into his path, and he went down,” Hubbell said.

“The crowd was super supportive,” Donohue added.  “They cheered me back up when I fell – just like I’d done a quad or something.”

The component score took a hit, and the 2014 Four Continents Champions slipped to sixth place with a 96.99 free skate and 163.20 total.