Davis, White hit high notes with 'My Fair Lady'Weaver, Poje slide into second place; Orford, Williams take third
By George, I think they've got it.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White set Salt Lake City alight Friday afternoon with an entrancing short dance to My Fair Lady that everyone in the arena could probably have watched all night.
"We are really thrilled with the first outing of this program," Davis said.
Judges agreed, awarding the world champions 73.67 points and giving them an 11-point lead over Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje at the 2013 U.S. International Figure Skating Championships.
From the opening midline steps through the Finnstep sections and closing rotational lift, the team's unison and speed looked in mid-season form. Dance steps melded seamlessly into twizzles, and the closing rotational lift was done with swift assurance. Those two elements gained Level 4's, with the remaining three elements earning Level 3's.
About the only criticism levied was that they hit their final pose a half second or so behind the music.
"We definitely spent a lot of time with Marina [Zoueva] figuring out the musicality of the program, and where the elements would flow seamlessly with the music," Davis said. "We finish our side-by-side [step] sequence and have an intricate dance section leading into our twizzles, and I feel it's effective to structure it that way."
"Right now we're sort of in the mode of worrying about what we can improve on," White said. "It was a solid skate; I think we can [strengthen] the ballroom feel, look more finished. But those are little touches that can grow as the season goes on."
Zoueva, the team's coach and choreographer, agreed.
"I am happy with how they performed," Zoueva said. "I expect the program to be very sophisticated, very classy, very elegant, and it is. It is a very nice technical score for the beginning of the season.
"Of course, everything can always be improved," she continued. "The lift, I want to see her in a higher first position. She was higher in practice."
White thought of one more thing.
"Try not to not end with the music," he said. "I'm putting that on the checklist."
Weaver and Poje's short dance to selections from 42nd Street captured the brassy, sassy character of the backstage musical, with high-energy tap dancing (complete with sound effects) and an exciting closing curve lift that had Poje swinging Weaver into several different positions.
The Canadians, fifth in the world last season, earned 62.61 points, gaining Level 4's for their twizzles and lift. The first section of their Finnstep was Level 2, and the remaining two elements earned Level 3's.
"Thinking back through our career, this is probably one of the earliest we have been out for an international competition, so we're happy with where we are," Poje said. "It's definitely still young in the season. We worked hard to ensure we would be ready for this, and we feel like it's a good building block for the season."
The music was chosen by Weaver, who remembers skating to it when she was 6.
"We just dug up the video; it was bad," she said. "I started thinking about it last season and then when I got injured, I had more time to think about it, because I didn't know if we would be able to come back or not for world championships in London."
Another Canadian team, Nicole Orford and Thomas Williams, is third after a light and elegant performance to a Frank Sinatra medley that earned 54.64 points. Their twizzles and lift rated Level 4, but their Finnstep sections and midline steps were Level 2's.
"It felt like a pretty strong skate for us. A few little wobbles here and there," Williams said. "We did a good job staying engaged with the audience and the judges, so overall we're happy."
The skaters scoured YouTube for classic movie scenes to help them interpret their choreography, done by their coaches Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe.
"I watch a lot of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers clips," Orford said.
The Canadian bronze medalists expect to battle with several other teams for the third spot on Canada's Olympic ice dance squad, behind Weaver and Poje and Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
"We're going to study the protocol, figure out what we are missing on the technical side and where to make improvements," Williams said. "We want to increase our score and qualify for Sochi down the road."
Brits Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland are fourth with 53.97 points, despite trouble with their rotational lift that dropped the element to Level 1.
Azerbaijan's Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov skated a slinky Pink Panther program to place sixth with 53.75 points.
Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt skated a fast-paced dance to quickstep and Charleston rhythms but lost ground when Kriengkrairut stumbled during the second Finnstep pattern. They are seventh with 53.03 points.
"We felt we skated pretty well overall," Giulietti-Schmitt said. "It was definitely an improvement over Lake Placid (Ice Dance Championships), which is what we were looking for. Not quite the skate we wanted, not quite the score we wanted, but we know we will improve over the season."
Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus, sixth in the U.S. last season, skated a jazzy program to a Rufus Wainwright medley, closing with a fine "rise and fall" rotational lift and earning 48.07 points for eighth place.
"Our technical score was a little low, so we are interested in looking at our protocol to see where we can improve," McManus said. "We felt really good about the performance and how it went. We tried to have fun, and I hope that came across to everyone."
The final U.S. entry, Alissandra Aronow and Collin Brubaker, performed an elegant program to a Nat King Cole medley and are 13th with 38.01 points.
The team, which trains alongside Davis and White in Canton, Mich., entered as substitutes for Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who withdrew after Alex tweaked his neck in practice.
"We felt super excited out there," Brubaker said. "Preparation wasn't exactly ideal since it was such a last-minute call. But when they told us, we got everything together and are managing the best we can."