Looking back at this year’s edition of Skate Canada, I see the majestic short dance of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (the matador and his muleta), the playful free dance of Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier (a feast for the eyes), the authenticity of Sara Hurtado and Adria Diaz’ short dance (breathing an air of Andalusia) and, all in all, that precious, wonderful free dance of the Canadians Elisabeth Paradis and François-Xavier Ouellette (already one of my favorite free dances of the season). Here they are, the (dancing) stories of Skate Canada…
by Florentina Tone
Elisabeth Paradis and François-Xavier Ouellette: a breath of fresh air in the ice dancing discipline. Well, I have never seen this couple prior to Skate America but now that I know them I want to see them more. So don’t you dare vanish, Elisabeth and Xavier. You’ve created expectations among the figure skating fans and you have to live up to them… As in Chicago at the end of October, Elisabeth Paradis and François-Xavier Ouellette were a breath of fresh air in Kelowna: I love the choice of music for their short program and, you know that by now, I’m totally in love with their free dance; it already grows into becoming one of my favorite free dances of the season. The fourth place at Skate America gave them wings to fly and they both seem genuinely touched by the music. A seventh place for them at Skate Canada International and I’m sure they’ll fight tooth and nail at the Canadian Championships for a place in the national team for this season.
Sara Hurtado and Adrià Díaz: they’re the embodiment of flamenco. Have you seen their short dance in Kelowna? A true marvel, trust my words. The musical cuts are genuine and impeccably chosen (“Tercio de Quites” by Rafael Talens, “Almoraina” by Paco de Lucia, “Alfileres de colores” by Miguel Poveda), the costumes are an work of art made at the National Ballet of Spain and the overall atmosphere of the program is breathing an air of Andalusia. Add here Sara’s confident look at Adrià prior to them taking their positions for the short dance and you’ll understand the Spaniards are naturally gifted to skate to this particular kind of music. Sure, the pressure of their first Grand Prix took its toll – they both seemed in a rush, not managing to control their twizzles from the beginning till the end – but, all in all, this program is one of the best short dances of the season in terms of musicality, character, attitude; and its intensity will definitely grow throughout the season.
The free dance, on the other hand, to “Meditation” by Zhumanity and music from the movie “Atonement”, is simple and subtle: a girl in a red dress, a boy – and the simplicity of their love story. The innovations, Sara and Adrià’s trademark, are all there, but I fear the program is too discreet, risking to go unnoticed. The Spaniards’ technical score was quite low in Kelowna and, surely, they aren’t happy with the 8th place at the first Grand Prix of their career, but I’m certain that both of the routines will be thoroughly scrutinized and refined by their team of coaches: Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, Roman Haguenauer. Their next assignment is Trophée Eric Bompard, in Paris, November 21-23.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier: their first Grand Prix medal, a (golden) silver, and a remarkable start of the season. I’ll raise an imaginary hat to Piper and Paul for their free dance in Kelowna; that good, that convincing it was. Prior to them starting the season, I only knew what they had told me, in an interview for Inside Skating: the free program would be “very different, much lighter and dancy”; and they would be once again “playing with characters”, after last season’s intriguing free dance, to music from the movie “Hitchcock”. Well, the free dance in Kelowna was all of the things above and many more, matching their “fun and goofy personalities”. And, looking at their dance – dance, in the true sense of the word – you might have thought it was easy; but, let me tell you, what they did on the ice was incredibly difficult: innovative elements, step-sequences to die for and a wonderful attention to details.
One thing is sure: the more I see the dance, the more I like it. And, of course, Piper’s kiss (and Paul’s face covered with lipstick) was the true end of this particular story on ice. “She’s got you good”, laughed Carol Lane, their coach, trying to wipe the burgundy lipstick off Paul’s face while Piper was ecstatic heading to the Kiss and Cry. “Sooo fun!”, she smiled and the scores were an additional reason for joy: 95.25 points for their free dance, 152.60 overall – a season best for them – and a first Grand Prix medal, a well-deserved silver.
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje: they really want that World gold medal in Shanghai. A-ma-zing. That’s pretty much all I could say after watching them skate to “La Virgen de la Macarena” in Kelowna. I don’t believe I’ve seen (during those first two Grand Prix of the season) a short dance skated as convincingly as this one: Andrew, the handsome matador wearing proudly his traje de luces, as if he were in the arena; and Kaitlyn, as the red cape, muleta, used by the matador for the final part of the bullfight, faena. This was definitely a powerful performance and the scores matched the Canadians’ level of skating: 68.61 points, a season best for them in Kelowna.
A day after, skating to Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi, Kaitlyn and Andrew looked like the fairies in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (at least, that’s the way I envision the fairies…): soft-colored, delicate costumes, beautiful arms in the air, sometimes smooth and sometimes playful, following the nuances of the music. I do love this particular free dance, its subtlety, its elegance – and I can’t wait to watch it again in Osaka, at the NHK Trophy, November 28-30. In Kelowna, Kaitlyn and Andrew were awarded 102.49 points for their free dance and, all in all, based on the scores received by the ice dance couples participating at Skate America and Skate Canada, the Canadians are leading the dance (even if) by a very small margin: Weaver& Poje at Skate Canada – 171.10 points overall; Chock&Bates at Skate America – 171.03 points overall.
The final rankings at 2014 Skate Canada International
1. Kaitlyn Weaver / Andrew Poje, Canada, 171.10 pts
2. Piper Gilles / Paul Poirier, Canada, 152.60 pts
3. Madison Hubbell / Zachary Donohue, United States, 148.23 pts
4. Ksenia Monko / Kirill Khaliavin, Russia, 143.48 pts
5. Nelli Zhiganshina / Alexander Gazsi, Germany, 140.95 pts
6. Alexandra Aldridge / Daniel Eaton, United States, 137.37 pts
7. Élisabeth Paradis / François-Xavier Ouellette, Canada, 134.48 pts
8. Sara Hurtado / Adrià Díaz, Spain, 127.99 pts