Ice Network

Stepanova, Bukin win short dance hip hop battle

Russians lead Hubbell, Donohue by four points; Zahorsky, Guerreiro third
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Russia's Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin are looking to capture their second Finlandia title in three years. -Getty Images

Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin took a convincing lead in the short dance at Finlandia Trophy on Saturday evening. The 2015 European bronze medalists performed a powerful blues and hip hop dance, earning 69.63 points.

"We were very nervous before we skated, but now we are really satisfied," they said. "It is our first competition, and we really enjoyed skating here."

"We thought that swing is something everyone would be skating to," Stepanova said. "We picked the hip hop because we really wanted something different and new for us, but it is difficult to transfer on ice."

The team didn't take part in the Russian test skate in September as Bukin was sick with bronchitis, but he said he is fully recovered now.

The Russians are excited about their new free dance, a tango, which was created by Peter Tchernyshev.

"The new choreographer has put us on a new level," Stepanova said. "Hopefully, tomorrow, we will be able to show everything we worked on."

Exploring new styles

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue's "Evolution of Hip Hop" medley got the crowd going, but not the judges. The U.S. team is in second place with 65.31 points.

"We felt maybe we were a little bit cautious but performed pretty well technically, so we will have to see why the scores were a bit low," Hubbell said. "We did some technical changes after Salt Lake City (U.S. International Classic), but the general choreography is the same."

Hubbell admitted that hip hop is not something that is as deeply rooted in them as some other dance styles, but that it's fun to perform. She has taken some off-ice hip hop dance classes for fun.

"But it's not someting I ever studied or was going (to) on a weekly basis. (It was more) just to let some stress go," she explained.

Before teaming up with Hubbell, Donohue did, in fact, study some hip hop dance during the time when he lived in New York City and took classes at Broadway Dance Center.

"Contemporary and jazz dance are more my strength, but I've done some things and worked with interesting people," he said.

The U.S. bronze medalists believe that welcoming new styles in the short dance is a change for the better.

"Doing hip hop classes is not something a lot of ice dancers have the time for because it has never been allowed before (in the short dance). There has never been a feel that it's a style they'd be encouraging us to go towards," Donohue said. "It's great for us to be able to take advantage of them opening up ice dancing for the newer generation. It's 2016, and everyone is a little sick of the foxtrot and waltz, and there are so many unexplored dance styles out there."

Finally officially together

Tiffany Zahorski and Jonathan Guerreiro took third place with 62.27 points. The team performed its short dance to "Naughty Naughty Boy" by Christina Aguilera and "All Night" by Parov Stelar, the latter of which might fall under the category of "neo-swing."

"We had neither done swing nor hip hop together and thought it would be fun to try swing," Zahorski said. "We then decided to go for funky swing, hoping it would get the crowd going, and do something original within swing."

This is the first season that the team can represent Russia internationally, as she had to wait for both her release from France and her Russian passport.

"It has been a lot of struggle, but now we can finally compete, and each competition makes us stronger as a couple," Zahorski said.

Natalia Kaliszek and Maksim Spodiriev of Poland are in fourth place (60.62). Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen from Denmark are surprisingly in fifth after they received only a Level 1 on one of their step sequences.