2006 NHK Trophy: Ice Dance Highlights

Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon of Canada easily defended their NHK Trophy title, capturing their second Grand Prix gold of the season. Russia’s Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, who were fourth last year, took the silver while USA’s Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov won the bronze.

Compulsory Dance (CD)

The Compulsory Dance for this event was the Rhumba. The dance was invented by Walter Gregory and was first performed in 1938 at the Westminster Ice Rink in London.

Dubreuil and Lauzon produced an expressive and precise Rhumba, earning 38.28 points for a first place finish.

“It went ok,” commented Dubreuil. “We did a pretty good dance. We didn’t get to work too much on it, because since Skate Canada, we’ve been working on doing a new OD. We have a different music – a different program. So we didn’t get a chance to work that much on compulsories. We did it clean and like it is supposed to be done and we’ll get it better as this season goes on.”

“It [the Rhumba] is a very fun dance,” added Lauzon. “I like it very much. It requires low knees and powerful edges and I think it suits our qualities as skaters.”

Khokhlova and Novitski also delivered a secure CD, earning a new person best of 33.66 points for a second place finish.

“We felt great out there,” said Khokhlova. “it was easy to skate and the audience welcomed us very well. I think we performed the dance in an excellent manner. We have polished the dance since [Cup of China], and apparently the result of this work was noticed today. We’ve mostly worked on the interpretation, music and performance.”

Gregory and Petukhov also produced a good routine despite a slight wobble in the fourth segment, placing third behind the Russians by less than half a point (33.62 points).

“We were really happy with the way we skated,” said Gregory, “but we’re really disappointed in our result because we don’t think it was justified. I felt we skated very strong. We did every step, … edges on music, and I think the other couple wasn’t on the music and did much larger errors than we did.”

USA’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White scored 29.98 points in their CD for fourth place, followed by Japan’s Nozomi Watanabe and Akiyuki Kido (28.99 points).

Original Dance (OD)

The event continued with the OD in which the dance for the 2006-2007 season is the “Tango”. Couples can choose one to three tango rhythms. If two rhythms are used, one can be repeated. Vocals are permitted.

Debuting a new routine to Payadora by Julián Plaza, Dubreuil and Lauzon opened with a level four midline step sequence with twizzles, followed by a very good level three midline step sequence, and an excellent level four straight line lift. The World silver medalists also produced an excellent level four dance spin and rotational lift, placing first in the OD with a score of 60.23 points and overall (98.51 points).

“At Skate Canada, we felt after hearing the comments from the judges that the music of our OD was too lyrical,” revealed Dubreuil. “More than half of the program was sung by a woman, very pretty, very lyrical, but you couldn’t really hear the beats. For us, as performers, we tend to perform more on the melody than on the beat.”

Dubreuil continued to explain the reasoning for starting from scratch on the new OD. “We decided to use a music that has a lot more beats in it,” she said. “It was very stressful. We skated for many hours last week, trying to get this program ready in time. I think for the first performance it was decent.”

Khokhlova and Novitski delivered a solid routine to Tango Jalousie by Jacob Gade which included a very good dance spin, two good mid-line step sequences, and two very good level four lifts. The two-time and reigning Russian National bronze medalists earned 55.15 (personal best) to place second in the OD and overall (88.81 points).

“We felt quite good in our dance [and] we got a new personal best,” said Novitski. “We improved our presentation, because we had a higher second mark.” “We had a level two for diagonal step sequence while we got a level three [at Cup of China],” added Khokhlova. “Apparently we didn’t finish something in the steps. The elements came easy to us today.”

Gregory and Petukhov displayed two difficult midline step sequences in their dance to La Cumparasita and Tanguera. The three-time US National silver medalists also executed two good level four lifts, a good level four dance spin, and a level three diagonal step sequence, earning 54.56 for a third place finish in the OD and overall (88.18 points).

“We’re improving in every competition, and that’s all we can ask for,” said Petukhov.” Gregory added, “We have a saying in English: ‘It’s not over until the fat lady sings.’ So, tomorrow, the fat lady sings. Our qualities [have improved since Skate America]. We got higher levels this time [and] we had a level four in our footwork. For us, it’s the first time to have a level four in the non-touching footwork.”

Davis and White produced a good routine to A Los Amigos by Astor Piazzolla which featured a good level four combination dance spin, two good level four lifts, a level four midline step sequence with twizzles, and a very good level three diagonal and midline step sequence. The 2006 World Junior bronze medalists earned 52.86 for a fourth place finish in the OD and overall (82.84 points).

Ukrainians Anna Zadorozhniuk and Sergei Verbillo placed fifth in the OD (with a new personal best of 47.05 points) and stood in sixth overall (74.45 points), while Watanabe and Kido placed sixth (46.90 points) in the OD, maintaining fifth place overall (75.89 points).

Free Dance (FD)

Dubreuil and Lauzon performed their FD to Etta James’ At Last, opening with an excellent straight line lift, followed by a beautiful reverse rotational lift and a very good dance spin. The defending champions continued with a very good circular step sequence, level three synchronized twizzles, a very good level two midline step sequence, and three more excellent level three lifts (one in combination). The current Grand Prix Final bronze medalists received a score of 97.38, placing first in the FD and overall (195.89 points).

“Today we were satisfied with our performance,” acknowledged Dubreuil. “We’ve had a very stressful week in between Skate Canada and this one. We got a new [OD] and didn’t get to practice the free dance, and we’ve changed part of the free dance as well.

“It was important for us to put out a solid performance before we go on to St. Petersburg to the Final,” continued Dubreuil. “In the free dance, we just changed some parts in the last parts to avoid being on two feet and to add difficulty in the linking footwork.”

Khokhlova and Novitski’s dance featured good level four synchronized twizzles, as well as four very good level four lifts (one in combination) and two good level three step sequences. The two-time and reigning Russian National bronze medalists earned a new personal best of 91.76 points for their routine to Aranjuez Mon Amour by Joaquín Rodrigo, placing second in the FD and overall (180.57 points).

“We aren’t in Japan for the first time and we are always well received here,” offered Novitski. “We’re very pleased to have won our first Grand Prix silver medal here”

“We have mixed feelings,” added Khokhlova. “We’re sad that we didn’t make the Grand Prix Final, but on the other hand we’re happy that we skated well here. We’ll continue to work hard. This wasn’t the last competition of the season, and we’ll show our best skating at the European and World Championships.”

Performing to Yoav Goren’s Preliator and Sarabande, Gregory and Petukhov opened with a good level four dance spin and an excellent level four serpentine lift. Their routine also included a good level four circular step sequence, four very good lifts (one in combination), and a good level three diagonal step sequence. With a segment score of 89.63 points, the husband-and-wife team finished third in the FD and overall with a total score of 177.81.

“It was a pleasure to compete here in Japan,” said Petukhov.”It was a really good event. Our performance was also very enjoyable here at this arena. We’re looking forward to improving some technical aspects in our programs.”

Gregory agreed, adding: “We had a very good skate here and it was good enough that we get to go to our first Grand Prix Final which we are very excited about.”

Davis and White produced a solid routine in which all eight elements were graded a level four. The dance included five good lifts, good synchronized twizzles, a good circular an diagonal step sequence, and dance spin. The 2006 US National Junior Champions earned a new personal best of 86.65 points, placing fourth in the FD and overall (169.49 points).

Watanabe and Kido placed sixth in the FD (74.38 points), maintaining fifth place overall (150.27 points), while Zadorozhniuk and Verbillo placed fifth in the FD (with a new personal best of 75.45 points) for a sixth place finish overall (149.90 points).

Khokhlova and Novitski, who earned 11 points at Cup of China and 13 points at this event (total 24 points), did not qualify for the Grand Prix Final (GPF). The team accrued a total of 354.43 points from both events, and using the tie-breaking system of total points accumulated from both events, missed the cutoff by 4.37 points to Gregory and Petukhov.

Dubreuil and Lauzon and Gregory and Petukhov both qualified for the GPF and will be joining the following ice dancers at the event: Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski (BUL), Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin (RUS), Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto (USA), and Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder (FRA).

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