The last stage of the Grand Prix series concluded with the Free Dance competition at the 2011 Rostelecom Cup of Russia. The top teams finished in the same order as they did in a Short Dance yesterday, but it did not distract from the strong impression left by three very different dances delivered by the leaders.
USA’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White easily won the event by posting the highest score of the season (179.06) – nearly a 20-point advantage over the runners up. Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje won their third silver medal of the series, while Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev took the bronze.
Despite the relative lack of mileage they had with their new free dance to “Die Fledermaus,” Davis and White impressed many of the judges. Out of 72 Grades of Execution (GoE), the team received only two “+1,” while all the others were “+2” and “+3”. The World Champions also did not received a single program component score lower than 9.50.
The audience agreed. The students of Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva could have hardly found a better place to present the dance than Russia, where Strauss and Kalman’s operettas were made immensely popular during Soviet times through a series of movies based on them. The familiarity with both the general theme of the piece and its signature tunes made it easy for spectators to get behind the dance.
In a rare show of unison, the skaters themselves were also pleased.
“The program was quite new going into Skate America,” said Davis. “We were very pleased with how it went there, but after four weeks at home between Skate America and coming to Cup of Russia, we felt a lot more confident with the program. It felt more solid and we’re excited to see where it goes.”
“We started to work on the dance very late and made this dance right in time for the Skate America,” she continued. “Given how long we had this Free Dance, we are very pleased. We worked hours on end to make it perfect. Fortunately, Marina had the idea to create this program for a couple of years now, so we did not have to start from a scratch. She already had a general idea of the dance.”
The team admitted that they have been offered to skate to the tune before, but declined.
“Frankly, my main objection to the idea was that I would have to wear a tuxedo,” joked White, “and it is a pain to skate in it. But our entire team has always been convinced that we could make a fantastic program out of it, so I just have to get over it. We were able to make a very comfortable outfit for me, and the rest worked out.”
“More seriously, though, we were not sure that it was the direction we wanted to go in,” added Davis. “We wanted to do different things, try different ideas. But now even Marina has told us that she is glad that we have not agreed before, because before we would not have necessarily been able to do justice to the music.”
The team reiterated that they do not feel like things have changed for them since their victory at the World Championships in April.
“With each new success we gain new confidence,” explained White. “It allows us to show more and more of ourselves on the ice. It helps us to connect to the judges and the audience. We can project to the audience, to the judges, and to each other better. I guess we have always been known for technical skills, but as important as a technical part is, it’s still ice dance and we want it to be entertaining as well as precise.”
The U.S. Champions have very warm feelings towards Russian audience.
“It’s great to be back in Moscow and at this ice rink in particular,” said Davis. “We had one of our best skates here and by far our worst. We are very grateful to the Russian audience. They supported us in 2009 and were very encouraging as tough as it was at the time. We really appreciate that and every time we come back, we appreciate their support for everyone, not just for the Russian teams.”
Canada’s Weaver and Poje won their third silver medal of the Series with a touching performance to Je suis malade. They scored a total of 161.18 points.
“Andrew and I are very happy with how we performed today,” said Weaver. “This was our third Grand Prix performance for this free dance. It was a bit of a daunting task when we set out to do it, but I think it paid off. We’ve gained valuable experience and mileage for both of our programs. It is getting better and better every time and we hope it will be better at the Grand Prix Final.”
The dancers, who have received the highest base value among all the participants, explained that for them the most important aspect of their dance is the emotional commitment.
“Our free dance portrays love and loss,” Weaver elaborated. “It is not a typical love story and the emotional commitment is very important.”
The team admits to being tired after the two previous events, but claim that they were certain they would be able to skate clean.
“We are definitely pleased with the performance,” said Poje, “even though it was a bit more labored than at the two previous events. We were not so fresh in our bodies, but we knew that expressing the emotions of the dance would carry us through and it did.”
Bobrova and Soloviev remained third in the free dance and overall (156.83). The skaters only earned level two for both their step sequences and level three for one of the lifts, which resulted in a lower technical score.
“Overall it was quite good,” said Soloviev. “Emotionally it was very strong, even though technically it was not quite as solid. We have learned what we have to work on and we will skate better next time.”
The skaters also explained the story behind their dance to Walpurgis Night (from the opera Faust) by Charles Gounod.
“Usually Dmitri is the one to answer the question,” joked Bobrova. “He really enjoys saying ‘my partner is a witch’. Seriously, though, we were looking for something extraordinary; something not lyrical and at the same time very different to the short dance. We enjoy the challenge of having to skate in two very different styles in just two days.”
“In this story Dmitri is Faust and I am one of manifestations of Mephisto in a female form,” explained Bobrova. “A witch, an evil soul. And throughout the dance, I am trying to pull his soul out of him, but he resists because he wants to remain human. I try different ways, I try to seduce him and to do other things, but in the end he discovers that I am evil.”
The European Championships silver medalists, however, disagree on the ending of the dance.
“In the end I win,” claimed Bobrova.
“I don’t quite agree,” said Soloviev. “I think we will keep on fighting.”
Teammates Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko finished fifth in the free dance, after receiving level one for three of their elements, but remained ahead of Lithuanians Isabelle Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas in the overall standings.
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