2023 Skate Canada: Ice Dance
Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier won their fourth consecutive Skate Canada title on Saturday afternoon in Vancouver. Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson from Great Britain secured their second silver medal in their fourth participation at this competition, while Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevicius from Lithuania held on to the third position, earning the bronze.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier
Gilles, who was diagnosed with stage one ovarian cancer earlier this year, said she was rearing to go. The 31-year-old had her left ovary removed and an appendectomy as a precautionary measure.
“Doctor’s appointments and checks are my natural list for everyday life now,” she said. “But I am feeling good, and I am just so grateful to be here with Paul and being able to do what I love.”
Gilles and Poirier showcased an inventive rotational lift during their challenging rhythm dance performance. Their routine, set to the songs “No More I love You’s” and “Addicted to Love,” was highlighted by their impeccable execution of level-four twizzles. Their midline steps received grades of level three for her and four for him, while their pattern steps were rated a level four. Additionally, the judges rewarded the duo with numerous high Grades of Execution (GOE). The two-time World bronze medalists secured the top position with a score of 87.55 heading into the free dance segment in their first competition of the season.
“I think the program went really well,” said Gilles, who felt they were ‘very present’ in the element. “I think we weren’t fully involved in the performing part, which I think was okay for a day like this. It really gives us room to grow, but I’m really proud that we just enjoyed every step of that program.”
When asked about the late start to the season, Gilles said they found a training formula that worked for them.
“We’ve been competing for so long, it doesn’t matter if we are skating for the first or last time this season,” she explained. “There will always be those nerves.”
The Canadians currently hold the highest rhythm dance scores for the season.
The team debuted their new free dance to music from Wuthering Heights for the first time in competition.
“The story is so complex it’s difficult to tell it within a four-minute program,” Gilles explained. “So, we are concentrating on showing passionate love between two people that can actually turn toxic. It’s exciting to show this darker side of us! We hope that the audience can relate and connect to it.”
While showcasing their versatility in the free dance, the 2020 Four Continents silver medalists earned a level four on all lifts, twizzles, and dance spin. The entrance to the curve lift was particularly difficult, and they displayed incredible skills throughout. She earned a level two for the diagonal steps while his were a three and both received a level three for the one-foot steps. They scored 131.46 points for first in the free skate, which was awarded with oodles of high grades of execution (GOE).
They easily finished first overall with a total score of 219.01. Both scores were extremely close to their current personal best scores from the Grand Prix in Espoo last season (131.69/219.49), a feat considering this is their first event of the season.
“We’re really thrilled with our fourth Skate Canada gold medal,” said Gilles. “It’s taken a long time for us to get to this moment in our career, and I think we’re really starting to enjoy each moment. We step out on that ice, and we believe in ourselves just a little bit more and I think that really showed in the free dance. I think we were so settled from the moment we went out there and we just let the program come to us. I think that’s kind of why we’ve been doing okay.”
While they are thrilled with their standing ovations, they also hope to reach the people watching from afar. Gilles also admitted that this free dance was harder to get into than Evita.
“In the story, the main character kind of turns into a ghost,” explained Gilles of the costume. “On one had we have the pink-reddish color for love, but also the greyish touch that represents it all fades away and disappears.”
They will compete next at Cup of China.
Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson
Fear and Gibson showed great speed and exuded vibrant energy in their lively performance of the rhythm dance set to “Sweet Dreams.” They achieved a season’s best score of 83.51, reflecting their exceptional performance. Their twizzles were on par with the Canadian competitors, and their level-four rotational lift garnered high GOEs. The 2023 European silver medalists received a level two for their midline steps, and the pattern steps were rated at a level one.
“We are very happy with our skate,” said Fear. “We felt a great energy! The crowd was energetic and so supportive and warm and it’s always an honor to perform for a crowd and we really feed off of that energy! I think we improved our confidence and performance and that led to the season’s best. We are thrilled to perform this program next again at NHK. Japan is our favorite country to compete in.”
Their free dance to Rocky was built around “overcoming adversity and finding strength.” In this routine, the five-time national champions wove their inspirational story around level-four twizzles, and lifts, as well as level-three one-foot steps. The character steps and slide were very good, but Fear seemed a tad bit off-balance in a twizzle. The dance spin was also a level four, and they also received many positive GOES, finishing second in this segment and overall (126.04 / 209.55).
“We are very satisfied,” said Gibson. “It was great to skate in front of such a big crowd early in the season. It was a good skate but something we want to improve on.”
“The crowd definitely makes a difference, feeling and embracing the energy,” said Fear. “It’s the best feeling to have this support!”
Fear explained that they always want to be a little different and show their personality.
“We think everyone in the crowd likes Rocky,” said Fear. “The theme is so universal of believing in yourself, overcoming adversity, and finding that triumph by believing in yourself. I think that we relate to that so much and everyone does in their own way. A lot of people have connected with this program, and we’ve had a lot of great reinforcement and can’t wait to build upon it.”
“We want to focus on developing and pushing the message in our program going towards NHK Trophy,” Gibson summed up.
Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevicius
Reed and Ambrulevicius finished third in the rhythm dance with a season’s best (75.60) after an entertaining performance to a Guns n’ Roses melody. The 2023 Nebelhorn Trophy silver medalists produced level-four twizzles and a level three rotational lift. The midline steps were graded a level one, while the pattern steps were awarded a level two.
“We feel good about our skate,” said Reed. “This program is so fun to perform today. Little by little we are improving.”
The skaters are thrilled to be podium contenders at this event.
“It’s very exciting,” said Ambrulevicius. “We worked so hard to be in this position. Competing here in Canada is very fulfilling and we are so grateful for all the opportunities this country gave us already!”
The Lithuanians created a modern free dance to “Enough of Our Machines” and “Children” which is about the loss of connection people have to one another due to the rise in technology. The team looked more solid in this segment of the event, showing level-four lifts, twizzles and a dance spin. The stationary-rotation lift combo at the beginning was very clever. The diagonal and one-foot steps were graded a level two for both ice dancers, while the choreographic steps received -0.22 GOEs. Still, they received a decent score of 116.41 for third place and earned a season’s best total score of 192.01 for third place overall.
“We worked very hard to make it to this point. We are so happy!” said Reed.
“Despite all the sticks that were put in our wheels, we kept going and we got our reward,” added Ambrulevicius. “Dreams come true sometimes. We are just very proud of ourselves. What you see here is just the top of the iceberg. All the hard work, prior summer, physical obstacles. We didn’t plan the late start into the season. Allison dislocated her shoulder two months ago. This is why we started our season a bit later. She is feeling fine now.”
“There was some opposition, opportunities missed, and some dreams we were not able to achieve, but this is a dream we achieved,” explained Reed.
The team will compete at NHK Trophy but are also very excited to have the 2024 European Champions in Ambrulevicius’ hometown.
“Of course, we have big goals and big dreams for this competition, but we will take one competition at a time,” said Reed.
Oona Brown and Gage Brown
USA’s Oona Brown and Gage Brown picked up a new personal best of 73.91 for their rhythm dance, a slight improvement from last week at Skate America. The 2022 World Junior Champions showed lots of energy in their Elton John routine and earned a level four on the twizzles. However, they were docked a point for an extended level-four rotational lift. The midline steps were a two for her and three for him, while the pattern steps were graded a level one.
“Last week surely was a confidence booster,” said Gage Brown. “We trained back down in Texas until Wednesday and then came up here. It felt great out there today. And we even had an extended lift which never happens during practice! Otherwise, the score would have been even higher. We had a lot of energy today and the crowd really helped!”
The 2023 Lake Placid Ice Dance silver medalists delivered an expressive routine to “All by Myself” for a personal best of 113.71. Their performance was highlighted by level-four twizzles and lifts, and they finished fourth overall with another personal best of 187.62.
“I feel we were more present than last week!” said Gage Brown. His sister added that they were “very, very happy!”
“The back-to-back competing is tricky, but we are used to heavy training, two run-throughs are normal for us,” said Gage Brown. “It’s a lot less at competition. We know now that we can do it and we are ready to do it again in the future.”
Brown and Brown were considered one of the best U.S. ice dance teams at this event.
“It feels great,” said Gage Brown. “It’s an honor to be part of the really strong U.S. team here. Overall, our goals are definitely more points-focused than results-focused, but we will have to think about maybe changing our goals after the recent success.”
Their next competition will be nationals and they will also have a few shows. They will also train again at the Ice Academy of Montreal in December.
Emilea Zingas and Vadym Kolesnik
USA’s Emilea Zingas and Vadym Kolesnik finished fifth in the rhythm dance (72.25) and overall (184.96). The team had a mistake in their twizzles during the rhythm dance, an element they admit is their nemesis. However, the midline and pattern steps both received a level three.
Their endearing routine to The Beauty and The Beast featured level-four twizzles and lifts. The entrance into the dance spin was difficult and received a level four as well. Their one-foot and serpentine steps were both graded a level three and they picked up a new personal best free dance score of 112.71 points.
“We are very happy today,” said Zingas. “We did what we expected ourselves to do and even more. Still a few small mistakes, but it’s early in the season.”
“The idea to skate to The Beauty and The Beast was Emilea’s,” said Kolesnik, who was later convinced after a “watch party.”
Their goal this season is to medal at nationals and make the Four Continents and World team.
“We were already very close to that goal last season, and we put in a lot of work over the summer, and we think we are ready for it!” said Kolesnik.
Their next Grand Prix will be in Espoo, Finland.
Eva Pate and Logan Bye
Teammates Eva Pate and Logan Bye were nearly tied with Zingas and Kolesnik after the rhythm dance with 72.12 points. They put out a clean and fun routine that was highlighted by level-four twizzles and rotational lift.
Their free dance to “Polovtsian Dances” received 109.34 points for sixth place and they maintained sixth place overall (181.46). Their next event will be at Cup of China.
“We are happy about our skate today,” said Pate. “The energy was great, and we are very proud of what we did this week despite the scores. It’s kind of mentally tough, striving for perfection. We are trying to put our focus on enjoying ourselves out there.”
“It was nice to skate in front of a big audience,” added Bye.
Pate said the free dance was their coaches’ idea.
“It’s a bit of the prince-and-princess idea,” she explained. “I really enjoy it a lot. My mom sews the crown into my hair. For Cup of China, Logan will have to learn how to do it!”
Rounding out the top 10
This was a solo event for Alicia Fabbri and Paul Ayer of Canada who finished seventh overall (173.34).
Germany’s Jennifer Janse van Rensburg and Benjamin Steffan placed eighth overall (172.52), followed by Canada’s Molly Lanaghan and Dmitre Razgulajevs (168.79) and Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu of China (160.61).
Want and Liu will be competing again the Cup of China.