2023 Skate America: Ice Dance
USA’s Madison Chock and Evan Bates won their fourth Skate America gold in Allen, Texas on Sunday. Canada’s Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha moved up a spot to earn the silver, while Evgeniia Lopareva and Geoffrey Brissaud of France settled for bronze.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates
Chock and Bates nailed their routine to a Queen medley in the rhythm dance in their first competition of the season. The 2023 World Champions placed first (84.87) with a seven-point lead ahead of the rest of the teams. Their performance was highlighted by level-four twizzles and rotational lift. However, Bates only received a level two on the midline steps, while Chock’s were a four.
The team had to overcome an unfortunate fall in the morning practice on the dismount of a lift.
“I lost control of the lift at the end of our program,” said Bates. “It’s a terrible feeling as a partner, especially as a lifting partner. What we do is dangerous, and I feel like sometimes that’s overlooked. It was a scary moment. Honestly, our coaches and the doctors were wonderful and checked on both of us, Maddie in particular.”
“When we got here, we knew we were both feeling okay and our hearts were set on skating,” he added. “But we needed to get the okay from the medical staff which we did before we competed.”
“It was so great to perform here in Texas,” said Chock. “We had a lot of fun debuting our program here and it was a pleasure to perform to Queen. Last season it was a bit of a slower start coming off from the Olympic season. This summer and spring we were very motivated to work on our new material, and this is why we are more ready this year.”
The defending champions captivated the crowd with their “Pink Floyd” free dance, capturing the essence and nuance of the music throughout. The opening stationary lift was brilliant and drew in the crowd from the start. The team seamlessly wove in and out of the transitions of all elements, which received a level four. Only the one-foot steps were graded a level three for him and the diagonal steps a three for both. Chock and Bates racked up numerous high grades of execution (GOE), particularly on the twizzles and steps. They earned 128.09 points for first in the free dance and overall (212.96).
“Skate America is a special Grand Prix for us, because it’s our home event,” Chock pointed out. “Our parents are in the audience. We are proud of our skate today and are looking forward to the rest of the season. Looking back on our first victory, we’ve come a long way and experienced a lot since then. It’s been a great journey and I’m grateful to have lived through that with Evan. It’s been a great experience!
“We already had this music in mind for a year in a half, but somehow it didn’t happen last season,” shared Bates. “As this year is the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” album, it came back up. We wanted to tell a story with it, and we chose time. Time is a construct, and we want to break free from it. We absolutely love our new Free Dance!”
They will compete next at Grand Prix Espoo in Finland.
Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha
Lajoie and Lagha put out a technically demanding rhythm dance to music by Michael Jackson. It was highlighted by strong level-four twizzles and a super-fast level-four rotational lift. The pattern steps were graded a level two, but they scored a new season’s best of 77.80 for second place.
“We really ‘died’ on the practice ice the last weeks and we are so glad it paid off,” said Lajoie. “There is still room for improvement, but we think we skated up to this music. We also changed the music a bit since Lombardia—we took out Michael Jackson’s voice at some point and put in the beat.”
“We think ‘Thriller’ is kind of the best piece of music ever created!” Lagha added. “I don’t think anybody is too young to enjoy Michael Jackson or Queen. A lot of amazing artists were from the 80s. It’s actually an honor to skate on such wonderful artists.”
“It was really fun,” Lajoie chimed in. “We felt like we could perform very well!”
The 2023 Four Continents bronze medalists delivered a mesmerizing and emotional free dance to “Roses” by Jean-Michel Blais. They showed good speed, particularly on the rotational lift. Lajoie received a level three on the one-foot steps and both skaters were graded a level three on the diagonal steps like the leaders. All other elements were graded a level four with high GOEs, and they earned a new season’s best of 119.19. The team placed second in the free dance and moved up one spot on the podium to second overall (196.99).
“We are very, very happy!” said a normally stoic Lagha. “We were both very nervous ahead of the skate today. But when you are so stressed, you just need connect and there is nothing going on in the world except that connection.”
Lajoie agreed. “I am very happy about how we connected.”
“We were on automatic pilot,” she said. “Then, near the end, we realized it went so well,” she added. “It’s a great feeling! We are again super motivated to go back to work and improve even more.”
“I don’t think anyone really enjoys skating on the ice during a competition, because it’s such a mental fight, you need to stay strong,” said Lagha.”
Lagha revealed that they plan to do more work on the rhythm dance in terms of “technical aspects” and “maybe change a few little things.”
They will compete next at Cup of China.
Evgeniia Lopareva and Geoffrey Brissaud
Lopareva and Brissaud delivered an intricate routine to selections by Mylene Farmer for the rhythm dance. The 2023 Autumn Classic silver medalists picked up a new personal best of 77.20 for second place. The team put out good level-four twizzles, level-three midline and pattern steps and a level-four rotational lift.
“We are super happy,” said Lopareva. “We finally achieved what we were looking for level and score-ish-wise. We struggled a bit with the levels at the beginning of the season.”
“We wanted to skate to something different than everyone else, stand out a bit,” said Brissaud of the rhythm dance. “Our coach suggested that we skate to Mylene Framer. This French artist is really 80s and we decided to do it. The music choice was super easy this season for the rhythm dance this year. The costume is also very Mylene Farmer-like. If you know the artist, you will understand the costume.”
The 2023 Shanghai Trophy silver medalists picked up a season’s best of 116.27 points for their classical free dance to selections by Sergei Rachmaninov. Their routine was highlighted by level-four twizzles, lifts and dance spin. The ice dancers also both received a level four on the one-foot steps, and they finished third overall (193.47).
“Winning this medal feels great, even better than our first Grand Prix medal last year in France,” said Lopareva. “There, we were kind of expected to win this medal and it was at home in France. But not going against this strong field. It feels very, very special.”
Brissaud explained they are trying to tell the “biography” of Rachmaninoff in the free dance.
“I am portraying him and Evgenia is portraying his muse and inspiration,” he explained. “We researched a lot about his life, and he has such a dramatic story. He had a crazy and hard life!”
Lopareva said that skating to a story makes it “easier to get really into the program.”
“We think we improved a lot in maturity this season,” Brissaud summed up.
Their next Grand Prix will be on home ice in France.
Caroline Green and Michael Parsons
USA’s Caroline Green and Michael Parsons rock-and-rolled their way to a season’s best of 75.05 in the rhythm dance, just a smidge behind the Czechs. The national silver medalists showed quality edges and fluidity throughout their “Scorpions” routine. The pattern steps, twizzles and straight-line lift were all graded a level four.
Parsons shared that the team changed their rhythm dance after feedback from the judges, coaches and officials at Lombardia Trophy.
“We created it in a couple of weeks, and we feel like this is really much more the direction we want to go with,” he said. “Creating a program under pressure was also a great learning experience. Hard rock is really a totally new style for us, a new direction, and we really enjoy it!”
“This skate was still not perfect and fifth place after the rhythm dance is clearly not placement-wise what we are looking for,” he added. “But we think we are going in the right direction and are happy with how we skated today!”
The 2022 Four Continents champions put out an inventive free dance to “Denmark” and “Wind and Snow,” showing lots of transitions throughout. The level-four twizzles were strong, as was the level-three one-foot and diagonal steps. All three lifts and the dance spin were graded a level four and they placed fourth overall (193.47).
“We are happy about our skate today,” said Parsons. “We are not yet where we want to be placement-wise, but it was a big step towards to where we want to be compared to Lombardia Trophy. Now no days off. We will keep working hard and we are sure we will improve more for our GP in China.”
“The goal was to put two clean skates,” added Green. “Not there where we want to be, but step-by-step we will get there.”
Parsons said they had made some small changes to the free dance since Lombardia, adding “that’s how a free dance progresses.”
Their next Grand Prix will be Cup of China.
Natalie Taschlerova and Filip Taschler
Czech Republic’s Natalie Taschlerova and Filip Taschler were powerful and smooth in their rhythm dance to “The Knowledge,” “Juicy Fruit” and “Serious Slammin.'” The twizzles and curve lift were both graded a level four and the 2023 Lombardia Trophy silver medalists scored 75.21 for fourth place.
“It was fun!” said Tschler. “At the end we could have pushed a little more.”
“We had to adjust to the size of the rink,” pointed out his sister, Taschlerova. “We really worked hard on that during our three practice sessions here. It was nice to travel together with the other Czech team. We are great friends all together.”
Taschlerova and Katerina Mrazkova have already been shopping together. Taschlerova bought a huge Starbucks cup and some Halloween candy for her friends at home.
The two-time national champions didn’t disappoint with their free dance to “Blucobalto,” “Terra Rosa” and “Son felice.” The team maintained good speed throughout their routine, which was highlighted by two-level four lifts. The curve lift was graded a level three, but the twizzles received a level four. The serpentine steps received a level two and one, while the one-foot steps were a two and three. They had a small hiccup on the choreographic steps which resulted in -1 GOEs and slipped to fifth place overall (109.63/184.84).
“We felt really good coming off the ice,” said Taschler. “The crowd was also very warm and welcoming. But we lost an entire element with our choreo lift, where we got negative GOE. We don’t understand it now. Our coach also didn’t get it, so we need to speak to the judges and work on that going into the next competition.”
They will share ice with Green and Parsons again at Cup of China.
Rounding out the top 10
Olivia Smart and Tim Dieck of Spain finished sixth overall with a personal best total score of 108.71 points. They teamed up last fall and made their international debut at Autumn Classic and Finlandia earlier this season, placing fourth at both events. At Skate America, they scored 71.96 with their “Blondie” rhythm dance for sixth place. The team then picked up a new personal best (108.71) for their clever and interesting free dance to an Elvis Presley medley.
USA’s Oona Brown and Gage Brown looked sharp and showed presence on the ice in their fun rhythm dance to an Elton John medley, picking up a personal best of 71.34. The 2022 World Junior champions showed lots of versatility with their intricate free dance to “All By Myself,” using the crescendos of the music to their advantage. They earned 105.87 points for the free dance and a new personal best total score of 177.21 for seventh overall.
Katerina Mrazkova and Daniel Mrazek of the Czech Republic showed lots of power and speed across the ice in their rhythm dance and scored a season’s best of 67.95. The reigning World Junior champions then turned out a dramatic and characteristic performance to Swan Lake, picking up 102.89 points. They finished eighth overall (170.84).
This was a solo event for Smart/Dieck and Harris/Chan.
Brown/Brown will compete next week at Skate Canada. Mrazkova/Mrazek will compete at the Grand Prix in Finland, while Lim/Quan will be in France.