Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cup of China Short Dance: Shanghai Surprise

We're almost to the halfway point of the Grand Prix season (it flies by too fast!), and the Short Dance event gets more and more . . . interesting, I guess is the word . . . every week. This week's Grand Prix stop is Shanghai, China, which means it's time for the annual excitement over what the Chinese ice dancers will wear (more on that later). The dance field in China brings us some intriguing storylines - How will Emily Samuelson and Todd Gilles look in their debut as a team? Will Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev be promoted as Russia #1 after their not-so-great showing at Worlds last season? Can Maia and Alex Shibutani build on their bronze medal at Worlds and show they've continued to mature?

The first couple to take the ice was Samuelson and Gilles, only two months into their partnership. When they skated out, I thought they had accidentally worn their Led Zeppelin free dance costumes. The costumes and music don't have a strong Latin flavor, but with more time to train, they could make it a program that will stand out. Their lack of training time shows with some unison issues, but kudos to them for working hard and being ready to compete so soon after teaming up. They looked like they had a lot of fun returning to competitive ice after such long layoffs.

Xiaoyang Yu/Chen Wang - Holy Lemon-Lime Ruffles! The first Chinese team doesn't disappoint with their costumes. Yu's green and yellowish dress has a trailing ruffled skirt, while Wang's matching shirt has sort of an accordion design with an opening in the center, exposing his chest. They skate to "Mambo Italiano" for the rhumba patterns, but I think the music might be too fast for the steps. They also treat us to our first helping of "Let's Get Loud."

Charlotte Lichtman/Dean Copely - Charlotte looks fab in pink. Their straight-line lift is really cool and one of the highlights of their program. Dean stumbles during the circular footwork but does a great job regaining unison with Charlotte for the remainder of the steps. Thought they put good energy into the program. Their score is very low and I concur with Dean's Kiss & Cry reaction of "Oh my God." Protocols show brutal levels on three of the five elements.

Penny Coomes/Nicholas Buckland - Will always remember this team for their Lion King free dance last year. They have a nice sultry start to their program, setting the mood for the Latin rhythms. And here comes our second helping of "Let's Get Loud." There's some wildness in their skating, but they are a cute couple.

Xintong Huang/Xun Zheng - Holy Yellow Lace! The second Chinese team sees Yu/Wang's costume voids and raises them. Huang's yellow dress has two flowers strategically placed on her chest, while Zheng's lacy yellow shirt has orange shoulder ruffles. Huang is rocking the "O" face during parts of the dance. They have good speed in their first rhumba pattern but as the program nears the end, they are slowing considerably. An aborted lift puts them behind their countrymen in the standings.

Pernelle Carron/Lloyd Jones - I'm so over their music, which has been used in countless Latin programs by singles skaters (Ryan Bradley, Daisuke Takahashi, etc.). I admit I blanked out a little during this performance as I recalled Dai's awesome footwork to this music in his short program last year.

Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev - Ekaterina's orange and black costume would've been more appropriate last weekend at Skate Canada with Halloween on the horizon. I can't stop staring at Dmitri because he reminds me so much of Hoyt on True Blood. The middle of their program transitions to "Eres Todo En Mi," used by Jamie Silverstein and Justin Pekarek in their 1999-2000 Original Dance (moment of silence please for their all-too-brief career). The Russian team's score answers my question of whether their federation will be promoting them. The number looks rather high for what I witnessed on the ice.

Maia and Alex Shibutani - Love Maia's new sparkly black dress. She looks more comfortable with the rhythm than she did at Finlandia last month. Both she and Alex project nicely to the audience and show off their usual crisp style. Score is perplexingly much lower than the Russians. An examination of the protocols reveals lost levels on the lift and circular steps. But the head-scratcher is the difference in Program Component Scores - three points separate the Shibutanis and Bobrova/Soloviev. At the 2011 World Championships, Bobrova/Soloviev bested the Shibutanis by less than a point in PCS in the Short Dance. I don't see a basis for the large growth in that gap.

Bobrova/Soloviev have a very comfortable eight point lead going into the Free Dance. The Shibutanis have been known for scoring high in their free dances, so there's a chance they could challenge the Russians but it's going to be a challenge. The situation is much tighter for the bronze medal with a battle set up between the Brits and the French. Here's hoping everyone skates well and the Chinese teams bring the costume voids yet again!

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