Welcome to the 2017 Cup of China ice dancing short dance! So, I’m sitting home alone on a cold, rainy Friday night watching figure skating on YouTube. Draped in a blanket. Clutching a mug of chai. Some would think this is less than ideal for a Friday night, but I’m right where I want to be.
A quick note on ice dancing before we get started…
I’m really limited in the way I can talk about these routines. I know next to nothing about the technical nature of ice dancing, or the intricacies of ballroom dancing steps. I chose a version of the broadcast with commentary so I could see if these guys thought the way I did about what I saw.
Obviously, I can spot a lift and determine whether it’s straight line or rotational. I can spot twizzles, and the choctaw. Beyond that, I’m like…uh, it’s all choreography to me. But I do know how that choreography makes me feel. And I have a sense of the difficulty level based on speed, closeness of steps, mirror skating versus dance holds, etc. That being said, I’m growing to appreciate ice dance more every year. When the rest of the disciplines feel like boring quad festivals, tune into some ice dancing and enjoy a purer form of skating.
If you’d like to follow along, here’s the video I watched on YouTube.
Elliana Pogrebinsky & Alex Benoit | USA
- This is the first time I’ve seen these two…and yay, they’re Americans! They were 4th at nationals last year, so that’s a good sign.
- They’re skating to samba, rhumba, and merengue – or so says the lower-third on the screen. The British announcer said their music is blues and swing, but, um, dude, are you paying attention at all? For those who don’t know, the short dance is always regulated in terms of ballroom dance styles. Every year, there’s a different set of choices for rhythms; this year is clearly samba, rhumba, salsa, merengue, slow rhumba, etc. No one is going to be skating to blues and swing.
- Looks like their choctaw is a teensy bit slow.
- That was a really nice element where her leg was extended and then stretched into a split – a transitional move, but so nicely choreographed and executed.
- One of their pieces of music is “Despacito.” I can already tell that way too many couples are using this music this year. At least two couples skated to it at Skate Canada. I get that it’s a popular song, which makes it a crowd pleaser and an obvious choice. But if it’s obvious to you, it’s gonna be obvious to every other couple competing this season.
- Ooh, they were a teensy bit off in their twizzle sequence. Spellcheck does not like the word “twizzle,” by the way.
- I like their look, I like their flow – I think these two are going places. They’re so young, but they remind me of Bobrova and Soloviev, whom we’ll see later.
Technical elements: 30.14
Ouch – this puts them in third place! Not really what you want when you skate in the final group. What did the judges see that I missed? Clearly, there are tons of ways to lose points in ice dance, from the wrong number of rotations to a lift that isn’t purely straight-line or rotational. I missed something here, because these two were pretty solid to me.
Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter | USA
- More Americans, yay! These two have been together for 11 years already, according to the announcers. Wow. So I was, like, eating dirt in the backyard at the age they were already learning to do something useful.
- They’re skating to a rhumba, slow rhumba, and samba. Let’s hope the don’t fall into the “Despacito” trap.
- First, we have a sped-up version of “Mambo Italiano.” That’s a good choice, and their speed is good.
- Nice choctaw, but not as fast or tight as the couples in the last group at Skate Canada.
- Hmm, they’re a little off on the twizzle sequence at the end.
- So far, they have good music cuts. Sometimes these are way too abrupt, or the sound mixers try to fade one track out over the next, which never works when you’re changing tempos. It’s almost ALWAYS awkward. But this cut was well done!
- So, what’s this slow rhumba song? Oh, crap, I recognize this Enrique Iglesias song. At least one couple skated to this at Skate Canada, too. This is what happens with these required dance styles in the short dance. As a skater, though, wouldn’t you expect this and pick something no one’s ever heard of? Or you gotta go like Virtue and Moir, and pick non-Latin songs that have the required time beat, but fit your personal style better. As Ezra Pound said, make it new. As Burger King said, have it your way. In skating, sometimes you have to do both.
- That was an awkward entrance into the straight-line lift. You could see she was really working to get into that. It needs to be a bit faster and smoother, like it’s effortless to wrap yourself around your partner’s neck and stand up on his leg. Easy to say, hard to do, I know, I know.
- They’re not pantomiming orgasmic enthusiasm like some teams do for these Latin dances. They’re happy and alert, but it feels genuine, not the put-on sexuality or saccharine enthusiasm that makes me throw up in my mouth sometimes. Unfortunately, I think that’s what the judges reward, so it may hurt these two in the long run.
Technical elements: 34.30
This puts them in 2nd place – ahead of the previous pair, but behind a Russian couple from the last group. Their presentation marks are even with the last pair, but they’re four points ahead in technical elements. Again, this is where I stumble, literally and metaphorically, when it comes to ice dance. I can’t tell you why it happened, just that it happened.
Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron | France
- Full confession: I FUCKING LOVE THESE TWO. They’re why I pay more attention to ice dancing than I used to (along with Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue). Can these two beat Virtue and Moir at the Olympics? My heart wants to say yes, but my brain says no. I feel like it’s going to be 1994 all over again, where Gordeeva and Grinkov beat my favorites, Mishkutienok and Dmitriev. But I’m getting ahead of myself – what are they gonna put down tonight?
- They’re skating to samba, rhumba, and samba. I wish that was more helpful a descriptor.
- Wow, her outfit is kinda crazy. I didn’t suspect she had a fringe game!
- They’re definitely faster on the choctaw than both previous couples. Their blades are closer together, too, which I’d expect from a more experienced and polished couple.
- Not wild about this music choice, you guys. It’s Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.” Not a bad song, but as a bid for an Olympic gold medal, it feels kinda low-rent. That being said, their free dances are usually wildly transcendent, emotional, lyrical – so by choosing this song, they’re showing range.
- Is it me, or does this skate feel a little slow? It’s early in the season still, but I feel like the things I’ve seen from them before have crazy speed and this is kinda…not like that.
- Kick-ass twizzles! Said no one ever, unless they’re talking about ice dancing.
- This program isn’t grabbing me like their others. Something must be wrong with me.
- Their straight-line lift is…nice. Not wow, not holy shit, just…nice. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME. WHY DON’T I FEEL THE WOW.
- Ha – one of the announcers is saying he wasn’t sure about the Ed Sheeran, either. Now he’s saying this program isn’t as strong a vehicle for them as Virtue and Moir’s short dance. That’s exactly how I feel. This program does not lay the smackdown and push Virtue and Moir into second place. Virtue and Moir’s short dance this year is fast, intricate, and full of connection between each other and the audience. As much as I love these two, this is not the short dance they are looking for in an Olympic year when they’re up against the Canadians.
- I humbly volunteer to be their unofficial consultant/second opinion provider. Call me, you guys.
Technical elements: 42.35
Their best-ever short dance score! Wow. So I know fuck-all about scoring ice dancing, clearly.
Madison Chock & Evan Bates | USA
- They’re skating to salsa, rhumba, and samba. Again, super helpful. Before we get started, I must confess that I love these two. Their “Under Pressure” free dance last year is mind-blowing. Click here to watch it.
- On an unrelated note, what’s with all the girls wearing green? In this final group so far, all the ladies except for Elliana Pogrebinsky are in green. It’s like when you go to work, and three other people are all wearing dark purple sweaters, and people go, “Oh, you got the memo.” No, I just have fan-fucking-tastic style, that’s all.
- Oh, I really like their steps at the beginning. She does a good job of conveying mood without that sickening fakeness I hate.
- Nice twizzles!
- They went with what I’d call more traditional Latin music – I like it. There are times when you dare to be different, and times when you let your footwork speak for itself. I like that they’ve gone with the latter.
- I feel like their steps are already faster than the three prior couples. Good training, you guys.
- Wow, that spread eagle move – crazy! She could so easily slide off that edge! Nice work.
- They’re nice and close through the choctaw. It looks great.
- Thanks, cameraman, for totally missing that lift. From what I could see, as they exit, there’s a really nice position with her doing the splits over his boots as he’s in a spread eagle. The geometry of it is just fascinating.
- Wow, he’s really into this – look at him move as the third and final piece of music plays! He’s really selling the enthusiasm here, more than she is. He is freaking IN IT. I love that.
- I love the enthusiasm, love the speed. She seemed a little hesitant, but he nailed it.
- So, one of the announcers is totally agreeing with me. He calls this program more “quintessential Latin.” He also noticed Evan’s spark in the second half of the program. Also, Christopher Dean choreographed this – no wonder I liked it better than Papadakis and Cizeron’s.
Technical elements: 35.97
This puts them in second place, right where they should be. Wow, their technical score is 7 points behind Papadakis and Cizeron. Again, clearly I know fuck-all about ice dancing. Only about 2 points behind in presentation, though! Nice. I feel like these two keep having to prove themselves, year after year…and they keep pulling it off. I admire that about them.
Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev | Russia
- These two are skating to rhumba, samba, and samba. Everyone is. I don’t know why I’m still bothering to report this.
- Damn, she’s got a fringe game, too. Look at those purple fringe earrings! They clash with the lovely cobalt of her dress, though. I don’t like these earrings, you guys. Sorry. (I’m making a point not to comment on physical appearance in any negative way, but earrings are a choice, unlike your body type or eye color or face shape.)
- That cinches it, you guys. There was definitely a “cool colors only” memo for the ladies circulated prior to the season.
- They’re knocking out their twizzles right off the bat. Nice, with good speed in the first two. Teensy bit slower on the third, but they kept it synchronized.
- Okay, they hit their poses perfectly at the end of the first piece of music. But a hair before the second piece played, dude launched into the up-tempo choreography. I know it’s all muscle memory and adrenaline at this point, but I wonder…can’t you hear that the music hasn’t started again yet?
- So these two started with a slow song and are picking up the tempo with the second piece of music. This is clearly NOT what the other couples have done. They’ve all started with a bang, and put their slow tempo song in the middle. Interesting. This seems a more natural progression, though, to get the audience into it.
- In the second half of this, they’re looking a little slow.
- Now we’re into their third music selection. It sounds like someone is beatboxing to a samba rhythm. This could either work really well or…not. The audience digs it. They perked up and are totally clapping with the music.
- Their lift looks…nice. Just…nice. It’s a little slow and I feel like I’ve seen that exact same lift from them before, in past seasons.
Technical elements: 35.78
They’re in third now, behind Chock and Bates! Their technical mark is a smidge (the technical term) behind Chock and Bates. Their presentation score is a smidge above Chock and Bates. Overall, there’s a super-teensy margin between second and third. It’s obvious who’s going to walk away with the gold, but second place is a fierce battle.
That’s the end of the 2017 Cup of China short dance! Who’s going to win that close race for second place?
If you just can’t get enough, check out the rest of my 2017 skating posts: