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Davis, White fly off with 'My Fair Lady' short dance

Italians skate nearly perfect routine; Shibs battle with Hubbell, Donohue
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In typical fashion, Meryl Davis and Charlie White lit up the ice at the Joe Louis Arena, posting a score of 75.70 en route to winning the short dance by almost six points. -Getty Images

In its second outing of the season, Meryl Davis and Charlie White's short dance to music from My Fair Lady once again had its audience, and the judges, begging for more.

At 2013 Skate America, the U.S. world champions took another step toward the Olympic podium with a sparkling program that was faster, crisper and lighter than it was in its debut at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City last month.

"We worked really hard to show that ballroom feel in the quickstep and foxtrot," Davis, 26, said. "Technically, we improved over our last competition, and our Finnstep (pattern dance) is really improved."

"Overall, I think the program is heading in the right direction," White, 25, said.

The skaters notched Level 4's for both sections of their Finnstep, as well as for their twizzles and a newly revamped closing rotational lift. Only their mid-line steps rated Level 3.

Davis and White's score, 75.70 points, was just 1.42 points less than the short dance mark they set at the world championships last season.

"The speed was better, the levels were a little bit better and the performance was better," said Marina Zoueva, who coaches the team in nearby Canton, Mich. "It was lighter and more related to the music. Now, we work to get Level 4 for the step sequence at our next competition (Japan's NHK Trophy next month)."

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, fourth in the world last season, did Davis and White one better and gained Level 4's for all the elements in their short dance to 42nd Street and Lullaby of Broadway, a remarkable achievement for their first competition of the season. The Italians sold their routine with verve and panache, earning a personal-best 69.88 points.

Cappellini credited coaches Igor Shpilband (in nearby Novi, Mich.) and Paola Mezzadri (in Milan) with enlisting the experts needed to help them gain the highest levels.

"We are pleased and surprised with the score," the 26-year-old said. "The Finnstep has been working well. We do a lot of technical work daily, reviewing every element. Many technical specialists come to rink and help us with that, and that is definitely something we will keep up. You can see the difference in the scores."

Davis and White's training partners, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, skated to a bubbly Michael Bublé medley highlighted by exceptionally fast twizzles and well-synchronized mid-line steps in perfect time with the music. The U.S. bronze medalists sit third with 61.26 points.

"We're really happy with the [foxtrot and quickstep] this year," Maia, 19, said. "They're right up our alley. Like last season, we got to work with (champion ballroom teacher) Corky Ballas, and we think the rhythms will be great for the Olympics."

The Shibutanis earned Level 2's for both of their Finnstep sections, but Zoueva thinks they will be improved by the sibling's next event, NHK Trophy.

"It just needs more work and more mileage," she said. "These types of dances are perfect for Maia and Alex. If you remember, when they won world bronze (in 2011), their free dance was set to quickstep and foxtrot."

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, fourth in the U.S. last season, sit fourth here, just about half a point behind the Shibutanis.

The team from Detroit Skating Club went the jazzy route in their routine to a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy medley. It was light and smooth, and they gained three Level 4's. Their second Finnstep section rated Level 3 and their circular steps Level 2.

"We put out a strong performance. We showed improvement after winning Nebelhorn [Trophy] only a couple of weeks ago," Hubbell, 21, said. "We did make a little mistake in the circle that cost us a few levels, but it's something that's easy to fix so we can improve our score again at Skate Canada."

"Very specifically, Zach is going to learn how to do an inside bracket off a change of edge from an inside rocker," Donohue, 22, said. "On the right foot, by the way. You have to get it 100-percent clean."

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