Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Moscow Oblast (MOB) maintained an easily lead after the Original Dance (OD), while Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer of Moscow (MOS) and Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (MOS) are nearly tied for second. In a very close fourth place, is Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko (MOB).
Domnina and Shabalin gave a solid debut of an Australian Aboriginal Dance, which profusely stood out amongst the other teams who perform Russian Folk dances. Apparently, this was exactly their intention.
“We wanted to surprise everyone by our dance,” Domnina later explained. “We did not want to create another Slavic dance and have considered a lot of options, including Scottish folk. But eventually we settled on this one. I guess it really makes everyone stop and take the notice. For me it was a shock at first. I could have never imagined myself in such a style. It was a new challenge for us. I thought it was just crazy, but once we have tried it, we immediately fell in love with it.”
The debut went over relatively well with both audience and the judges. The couple was entertaining and expressive and stylized all their moves well to match the character of the dance. The current World Champions received a level four for their twizzles and lifts, but their step sequence received only a level three, placing first in the Free Dance (FD) with 66.54 (30.92/35.62) points and overall (111.71 points).
“We don’t really have any impressions from today’s performance,” said Domnina. “We are just so happy to compete again and to show the audience a half of what we have prepared for the season. I was not perfect, but it was excepted.”
Rubleva and Shefer pulled up to the second place overall (94.91 points) after an upbeat and energetic performance to Valenki (“Felt Boots”). The familiar tune got the audience clapping along from the very first chords, and the skaters lived up to the energy of the music. The current silver medalists also used the dance as an exhibition program in a local show, and it certainly works as well as an entertainment program as it does a competitive routine.
The students of Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin received the same levels of difficulty as Domnina and Shabalin, however, lower program components kept them at a respectful distance from the leaders. They picked up 57.98 (29.20/28.78) points for a second place finish in the OD.
“We are very happy with both our performances so far,” said Shefer at the press conference. “We have no complaints at all.”
“The atmosphere in Yublieiny is very pleasant,” added Rubleva. “We have never been here before, and usually when you come to a new venue, you try to get its ‘vibe’. Here it is very warm and comfortable.”
Riazanova and Tkachenko finished third in the OD with 57.24 (28.85/28.39) points, but slipped to the fourth place (93.92 points) overall. The team from Odinstovo also opted to do a Russian folk, using the lyrical Berezka (“A Birch Tree”) for their dance. The soft and flowing style suited them very well, and the current Russian Junior Champions were smooth and confident throughout.
Bobrova and Soloviev placed fourth with 56.73 (27.26/29.47) points in the original dance due to a costly mistake on the synchronized twizzles (Bobrova let go of her blade in the second part), which only received a level two. The team was otherwise very strong, and their routine to Yablochko (“The Apple” or Sailor’s Dance) was one of the highlights of the event.
In the program, the 2007 World Junior Champions portray two fellow sailors. Their movements matched both the style of the dance and the rhythm, as well as the cadence of music, and the audience obviously appreciated their efforts. Bobrova and Soloviev received the second highest program component scores, and are currently in third place with only 0.07 points separating them from Rubleva and Shefer.
“Obviously we are not happy about our performance today,” said Soloviev. “Once again we made mistakes. I hope that we will skate better tomorrow. We have a good free dance and have already skated it well in competition before.”
Bobrova agreed, adding: “The audience is very supportive here. We were not nervous at all and felt very much welcomed.”
Anastasia Platonova and Alexander Grachev (MOS) remained in the fifth place overall (86.59 points) after a clean performance of a Lezginka dance from the Dagestan region of Russia. The program was one of the crowd favorites, however, the students of Alexander Zhulin received only a level two for both their step sequences, placing fifth in the OD with 52.68 (25.76/26.92) points.
Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov (MOS) also received a level two for their steps, but pulled up to the sixth place overall (84.12 points) after a clean and confident dance to Shadritza. Their improvement in basic skating skills allowed them to move away from the comic theme they have exploited in the past to mask their technical deficiencies, and their flow and passion during the program was among the best in the field.
The event continues with the Pairs Short Program.