I haven’t watched enough of the ice dancing in the first two Grand Prix events, so I am dedicating this Cup of China post to the dancers.
I’ll start with the dancer behind the microphone, Tanith Belbin. She is doing commentary with Universal Sports again this year and her analysis has really grown on me. I thought sometimes her commentary was a bit wordy last year, but I really enjoyed her take on the free dance. She did a fantastic job pointing out subtle differences between each of the teams so that each score and placement made sense. And in ice dancing it always comes down to the minute details and the nuances of the performance, so that is just what the viewer needs.
The Shibutanis earned their second silver medal on the Grand Prix this year, and their disappointment was visible in the kiss and cry. I really felt for them–I bet they wanted a Grand Prix victory under their belts heading into a US Nationals showdown with Chock/Bates. They led after a great short dance and only lost the gold by three points. Seemed like it came down to a couple elements that only received Level 2 GOE, but I enjoyed the performance overall. I saw their Michael Jackson free dance in person at Nationals last year and thought they were very light on their feet and the same is true for this program–though the music of Strauss is probably as far from Michael Jackson as you can get. The Strauss free dance reminds me a bit of Davis & White’s 2012 Die Fledermaus free dance; it has the same light, carefree vibe.
I also have to add that Maia’s dresses for both the short dance and the free dance are gorgeous!
The French team of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron surprised many with their victory over the ShibSibs and the reigning word champions, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (they just didn’t seem to recover after a freak fall by Lanotte on a transition). There was a lot to love about this French team: their superb connection with each other, beautiful holds and arm positions, and how close they stayed on their twizzles, to name a few. Their speed also looked superior to their competitors, but I know that sometimes isn’t always conveyed well on a screen versus being in person in the rink.
The newly formed Russian team of Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin did not look like they were in their first competition together. Their skating was very fluid and confident. Elena won the bronze in ice dancing at the 2014 Olympics with her former partner, Nikita Katsalapov, and I loved how she skated with such joy in Sochi (I wanted to link to one of their Olympic programs here, but they are nowhere to be found on YouTube, unfortunately). I was surprised that she split from Katsalapov, but this new partnership looks promising. Their two final lifts in the free dance were a bit sloppy, which took away from the overall impression, but it is still early in the season for these two.
And one general comment about all the dances: I almost feel like lifts are getting too complex. There are so many positions and twists and turns in each that it is rare for a team to be able to hold a position long enough for the audience to really enjoy it. I wish they could stick with just a few positions and hold them nicely. The influence of watching Dick Button’s fantastic commentary for all those years is definitely showing itself here! What do you think about all the lift positions?