NHK Free Dance Preview
One would expect Davis and White (USA), last year's Olympic and World silver medallists to completely blow away the competition here, and indeed, they should win the overall event easily. Changes in ice dance rules may cause some surprises for fans, though. The new short dance format was competed for the first time on the Grand Prix circuit at 2 am EST, October 22, at NHK in Nagoya, Japan, and indeed had a surprise or two. As in most years, there have been changes to the scoring system as well. Short lifts can only earn a maximum of 4 base points, instead of 5, and requirements for level 4 twizzles are more stringent. Fans will see teams starting their twizzles with a small jump, or doing three sets of twizzles instead of four in a effort to gain level 4.
Davis and White scrapped their first version of a short dance to the "Amelie" soundtrack, following monitoring at Champs' Camp, so their new program to music from "La Traviata" and "La Boheme" is quite new to them. Additionally, they have been very busy skating in TV shows and in SOI, something new for them this year. They did not perform with quite their usual speed and crispness, and skated a shade carefully in the short dance. However, their program was much better than the other teams, and was skated without any glaring error. As a result, they go into the long program 9 points ahead of Weaver and Poje, who are in second place. Davis and White will be skating their free dance to music from the Italian movie "Il Postino" (The Postman.) The Postman is a love story, and the general theme of the music is a tango romantica. I expect Davis and White to win the overall event handily, given their skills and their huge lead from the short dance.
Weaver and Poje (CAN) did not compete at Worlds last year, however they will have practiced the Golden Waltz in preparation for it. They are the reigning Four Continents champions. Their choice of "At Last'" for the Golden Waltz section of their short dance may well make it difficult to get full technical marks for that portion of the dance, due to the irregular phrasing and non-Viennese Waltz feel of the piece. They skated this dance carefully, and their very classic Audrey Hepburn on ice look served them very well in the short dance. Their free dance, to music from Moulin Rouge, should suit them well., too. They remain challengers for second, third iif Capellini and Lanotte recover in the free dance, or the Shibutanis or Illinykh and Katsapalov skate their very best.
Huge excitement has heralded the debut of World Junior Champions Ilinykh and Katsapalov (RUS) on the senior circuit this year, following their extremely well received "Schindler's List" free dance, and Andean folk dance last season. However, they arrived at the Russian test skate this summer somewhat out of shape, and their programs were criticized by Tarasova. Like the Shibutanis, the Golden Waltz is new to them. And although their choice of the waltz from "Agony" transitioned relatively well into a second half of the dance to a tango, again, it made correct performance of the Golden Waltz more difficult. Their free dance will be a ballet interpretation of Minkus' "Don Quixote". They are also strong candidates for the bronze medal, and perhaps the silver medal.
Capellini and Lanotte, who skated to a charming, light-hearted combination of the Golden Waltz and the Quickstep to "Que Sera Sera" and "Girls, Girls, Girls". Here they did not skate as well as at Nebelhorn, and had several errors that cost them technical marks. They finished in fourth place in the short dance. They could pull up in the free dance, but in general they have tended to slip in that segment of the competition. They will skate to Our Love is Easy and Goodnite by Melody Gardot, arranged by Karl Hugo.
Third place is still wide open. The Shibutanis (USA) had a disaster in their short dance at Nebelhorn this fall, where they made their senior debut. Maia fell at the beginning of their sequential twizzles, which were were awarded no points. Maia has grown three inches, and as a result, this team presents a much more mature appearance on the ice this year, but it means they are still adjusting their technique. Alex stepped on Maia's dress in the Golden Waltz in the short dance. Maia skated the rest of the program with a piece of her costume trailing behind her.. The Golden Waltz is new to them, as they are just up from juniors. The Shibutanis, skating their free dance to music from Charlie Chaplin and Irving Berlin, defeated Capellini and Lanotte in the free dance portion of Nebelhorn. The Shibutanis should not be discounted as challengers for third overall, despite their problems in the SD.
The surprise of the event may be Mysliveckova and Novak (CZE), who have done very well in the two short dances they have competed in this fall, and Nebelhorn and Nepela. They have earned a level four for one of their Golden Waltz segments in both competitions. However, here in the SD, their twizzles were wildly out of synch. Their free dance is rather a patchwork for songs with a uniting theme of money. They should finish in the top five.
Free Dance - Order of Skate is in Reverse Order of the teams' position in the Free Dance.
WARMUP GROUP 1
Dora TUROCZI / Balazs MAJOR HUN (ISU World Ranking: Fifty Eigth)
Coach: Ilona Berecz
Choreographer: Galit Chait
Their FD: Be Italian by Fergie
Their SD Score: 32.68
Xiaoyang YU / Chen WANG CHN (ISU World Ranking: Thirty Sixth)
Coach: Hongyan Xi
Choreographer: Natalia Linichuk
Their FD: Moonlight by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Their SD Score: 43.50
Penny COOMES / Nicholas BUCKLAND GBR (ISU World Ranking: Thirtieth)
Coach: Evgeni Platov, Philip Askew
Choreographer: Philip Askew
Their FD: Simba Confronts Scar and King of Pride Rock/Circle of Life (from "The Lion King" soundtrack) by Elton John & Tim Rice
Their SD Score: 43.52
Cathy REED / Chris REED JPN (ISU World Ranking: Twenty Ninth)
Coach: Nikolai Morozov, Walter Rizzo
Choreographer: Nikolai Morozov, Patti Wilcox
Their FD: So She Dances by Josh Groban
Their SD Score: 44.90
Lucie MYSLIVECKOVA / Matej NOVAK CZE (ISU World Ranking: Twenth Third)
Coach: Natalia Karamysheva, Rostislav Sinicyn
Choreographer: M. Drobiazko, P. Vanagas, R. Sinicyn
Their FD: Let My People Go; Money; Jessica Rabbit (Why Don't You Do Right); Venus
Their SD Score: 45.20
WARMUP GROUP 2
Maia SHIBUTANI / Alex SHIBUTANI USA (ISU World Ranking: Fourteenth)
Coach: Igor Shpilband, Marina Zueva, J.Johns, A. Lenda
Choreographer: Igor Shpilband, Marina Zueva
Their FD: Smile (Charlie Chaplin soundtrack); Let's Face the Music and Dance by Irving Berlin
Their SD Score: 53.68
Anna CAPPELLINI / Luca LANOTTE ITA (ISU World Ranking: Eighth)
Coach: Muriel Zazoui, Romain Haguenauer
Choreographer: D. Ribas, M.F. Dubreuil, P. Lauzon
Their FD: Our Love is Easy and Goodnite by Melody Gardot, arranged by Karl Hugo
Their SD Score: 55.68
Elena ILINYKH / Nikita KATSALAPOV RUS (ISU World Ranking: Twenty Seventh)
Coach: Alexander Zhulin, Oleg Volkov
Choreographer: Liudmila Vlasova
Their FD: Don Quixote by Leon Minkus
Their SD Score: 56.89
Kaitlyn WEAVER / Andrew POJE CAN (ISU World Ranking: Eleventh)
Coach: S. Bourne, P. Camerlengo, A. Krylova
Choreographer: Shae-Lynn Bourne, Pasquale Camerlengo
Their FD: Sparkling Diamonds; Come What May; El Tango de Roxanne (from Moulin Rouge soundtrack)
SD Score: 58.69
Meryl DAVIS / Charlie WHITE USA (ISU World Ranking: First)
Coach: Igor Shpilband, Marina Zueva
Choreographer: Igor Shpilband, Marina Zueva
Their FD: Il Postino (soundtrack) by Luis Bacalov; and Payadora and Recuerdo (Forever Tango) by Lisandro Adrover
Score from the SD: 66.97 (highest scored SD so far)