Golden Skate

Hubbell and Donohue first after Rhythm Dance at 2020 Skate America

USA’s Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue took the lead after the Rhythm Dance on Friday Night at 2020 Guaranteed Rate Skate America in Las Vegas, Nev. They are followed by Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker and Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko.

Hubbell and Donohue put out a solid dance to music from Burlesque, meeting all four key points in the Finnsteps which were graded a level 4. The 2020 Four Continents bronze medalists also showed strong level 4 twizzles and rotation lift, while the midline steps were graded a level 3. Donohue earned a level four for his pattern steps, while Hubbell received a three. They scored 85.30 points for a comfortable lead.

“We miss competing and tonight was a way to get back into the swing of things,” said Hubbell. “Though there was no live audience, we still felt that adrenaline and it’s great to have that rush again.”

“Were very happy with the program in our first outing,” said Donohue.

The team relayed that it took some time to make the final decision of choosing a new Rhythm Dance as they were waiting to see what the season would bring.

“Zach and I love the challenge of a new project and we felt that as much as we liked ‘Marilyn,’ we worked hard at it all year and got it to a point where it was really strong and consistent,” said Hubbell. “We didn’t feel there was that much left to squeeze out of the program. So we wanted to take all the things that we learned from that character and apply it something that’s a little more modern, sexy, powerful, and allowed me to be a little bit more authentic to my character.”

“I loved Marilyn (Monroe),” she added, “but she was a very shy woman who didn’t have the most self confidence, and I was kind of ready to step out and be very strong and powerful. Luckily, the coaches were all inspired by the idea of Burlesque, so this is the first of hopefully more performances this season and we look forward to continue working on it at home.”

Hawayek and Baker also earned a level 4 and met all key points in their Finnsteps, as well as a level 4 for the straight line lift and the pattern steps. The midline steps were graded level 3, and while Hawayek received a level 4 on the twizzles, Baker got a 3. The 2019 Nebelhorn Trophy silver medalists earned a new personal best of 81.15 points for their upbeat disco routine to music from Saturday Night Fever.

“We always want to spark joy,” said Hawayek when explaining what disco means to them. “I think that is the essence of disco. It’s abandonment and care-free in the sense that when you watch people dance, they don’t look around and judge each other. It’s a matter of being 100 percent authentic and joyful.”

The team felt that going into this event was a new experience for them.

“We really took and harnessed as much of the different energy that we could, rather than trying to find the same energy we would usually have at a competition,” said Hawayek. “I think we really harnessed each other’s energy and just kind of embraced the weirdness of the competition. It’s all foreign, but the one thing that’s constant is the two of us. Going into the program, we just wanted to perform for each other.”

“I know both of us feel like the growth of the program still hasn’t reached it’s maximum,” she continued. “We changed a bunch of stuff in the summer with the middle piece and I think the potential of it is huge. We just really need to maximize on the cleanliness, just the flavor of that part even more, so I think we feel like there’s a lot room to grow.”

Performing to music from “Too Darn Hot” from the musical Kiss Me Kate, Carreira and Ponomarenko earned a rare level 4 on the midline steps, as well as the twizzles and rotational lift. The 2019 Asian Open champions, showed much improvement since last season, meeting three of the key points in their Finnsteps and earning a 3 and 4 on the pattern steps to score a new personal best of 78.63 points.

“I feel like it was pretty good considering it was our first (event) of the season,” said Carreira. “I feel like it was ok, but there were a few things we could’ve done better.”

“Last year we didn’t skate the best Rhythm Dance,” recalled Ponomarenko, “so we feel happy with how we skated together today based on that.”

Both skaters agree that more can be done with this routine which they used last season.

“It was a program we loved last year, so we’re not sick of it yet,” said Carreira. “It feels great to keep improving it and making it better.”

“It feels really comfortable skating it a second year in a row,” agreed Ponomarenko. “Everything just feels natural, so we really just want to take it to the next step. More energy, more power, just showing what we can do.”

Caroline Green and Michael Parsons are currently in fourth place with a new personal best of 74.98. Their routine to the music Thoroughly Modern Millie featured level 4 twizzles and rotational lift.

“It was something that came pretty naturally,” said Green, regarding the selection of music. “Once we found out the Rhythm Dance was going to be the same, we decided that it would be best for the development of the team to show new direction.”

“It’s a classic story, very well-received on Broadway,” added Parsons. “You can’t go wrong with Julie Andrews. It’s a great story that we are having fun putting our twist on. We’re telling our own story with it and it’s really fun.

The ice dancers, who teamed up after the 2018-19 season, feel like the prolonged off season was both good and bad.

“I think we’ve taken advantage of the time we had,” said Parsons. “I think biggest step forward we’ve taken is our relationship on the ice and how we interact with each other.”

Molly Cesanek and Yehor Yehorov, who are making their Grand Prix debut, are in fifth (66.01), followed by Lorraine McNamara and Anton Spiridonov (63.50).