by Doris Spicer Pulaski
(23 January 2013) Maybe the moon was in the right phase. Whatever the reason, all six of the top couples at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championship improved on their personal best score for a short dance, some by double digits. Or the technical panel who judged the junior short dance was in a particularly generous mood. Perhaps, the coaches of the teams had a breakthrough in how to teach the tricky choctaw of the Blues pattern dance. It is surely true that all of the top six dance teams have worked hard since their 2012 Junior Grand Prix events and skated brilliantly in the short dance today.
Maybe it was a little bit of all those reasons, but the result was a great deal of cheering, clapping, and hugging in the Kiss and Cry last night.
It was perhaps to be expected that Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton would win the event; after all, they are the reigning Junior World bronze medalists, who also won the bronze medal at the 2013 Junior Grand Prix Final. The Detroit-based team, who train with Pascal Camerlengo, Liz Coates, and Massimo Scali, has struggled with the Blues Pattern Dance sequences all season. At the Junior Grand Prix Final, they were only credited with hitting one of the five key points in the Blues Pattern Dance sequences there.
Aldridge & Eaton were thrilled with their score of 66.11 points. Their season's best had only been 58.46. The difference was that at the 2013 US National Junior Championships, the eighteen-year old Aldridge and the twenty-year old Eaton were credited by the technical panel with hitting all six of the required key points of the Blues during their energetic short dance to the swing number, "Pennsylvania 6-5000" by the Brian Setzer Orchestra and "Down Home Blues" by Gene Harris. The Michigan dancers skated with superior speed and deep edges, not to mention perky charm.
This season, junior ice dance teams have been given the option to skate part of their short dance to hiphop, a choice that has never been allowed before. In fact, the ISU needed to write a communication to define exactly what ice dance hiphop is supposed to be.
Few teams have taken advantage of this option, but the Wheaton Academy based couple of Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter and their choreographers, Alexei Kiliakov and Elena Novak, chose the hiphop option to create a crowd-pleasing zombie dance that still managed to include the required dance elements and the Blues Pattern dance to the hiphop tune Ramalama (Bang Bang)" by Roisin Murphy and "Zombie Blues" by Flipron.
The thirteen-year old McNamara and the sixteen-year old Carpenter stayed in zombie character from the moment they stepped on the ice till the moment they left it, managing to mime shivering to rise from the grave, and sinking back into it at the end of the program. It is difficult for shivering, shaking zombies to demonstrate their fine leg line and deep edges, but the thirteen-year old McNamara and the sixteen-year old Carpenter were able to earn level 4s for all their elements, with the exception of a level 3 for their step sequence, which was slightly marred by a visible misstep by Carpenter. The young Maryland-based team scored 63.67 points to seize second place.
When Kaitlyn Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, who share coaches with Aldridge & Eaton, and who finished in third place in the short dance, saw their score of 60.72 come up, they could only gasp aloud. The Detroit-based couple has been a team less than a year, but they already have had success on the international scene, winning the silver medal at the Junior Grand Prix of Chemnitz 2012. In fact, their score could have been even higher if their sequential twizzle sequence had not been downgraded to a level 3, and their step sequence to a level 2, for they, too, were credited with six of six Blues key points.
The couple danced the Blues to "Minnie the Moocher" by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and swung to “Give Me Some Rhythm Daddy" by Brian Setzer Orchestra. Their unison and legline was very good, and the depth of their edges in the Blues particularly outstanding. No spectator would guess they have been together for such a short time.
The fourth place team of Holly Moore & Daniel Klaber danced to the soundtrack of "Grease" with real 1950's character. The team believably recreated the roles of the working class 1950's teens, Danny & Patty from the musical. You could almost smell the Bryllcreem hair pomade as Daniel Klaber stroked his hair while dancing to "You're the One that I Love," "Those Magic Changes," and "Greased Lightnin." The students of Camerlengo and Scali did not have quite the timing or speed of the top three teams, and Klaber's second set of twizzles spun in place rather than travelling down the ice, which caused a downgrade to level 3. They only achieved five of six key points, but even before they left the ice, they were obviously celebrating the finest performance of their lives. When the team's score of 58.39 points was revealed, Holly Moore exclaimed excitedly, "That's a personal best by a lot, almost 10 points!"
Elliana Pogrebinsky & Ross Gudis, another Wheaton Academy team, also achieved a personal best score of 54.28, and also chose hiphop for their optional dance. They are currently in fifth place. They also racked up five of six key points in the Blues, while skating to “Overpowered" and "Cry, Baby" by Roisin Murphy, and "The Blues" by Mr. De Renaissance.
Their rinkmates at Wheaton Academy, Whitney Miller & Kyle MacMillan, scored 45.72 points to rank in sixth place, and they were also given credit for 5 of 6 key points to their blues and hiphop routine to "Beggin'" by Madcon and "Forever Blue" by Vaya Con Dios.
The free dance is scheduled for 1:00 PM Eastern time on Wednesday. If the quality we saw in the free dance is repeated, it will be an amazing experience both for the viewers and the skaters.
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