Ice Network

Dovolani dishes on top dance duos ahead of worlds

'DWTS' champion breaks down choreography, connection of elite teams
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Tony Dovolani offered a lot of praise for the world's best ice dance teams, but he had some constructive criticism for a few of them as well. -courtesy of Cynthia Snyder Public Relations

It's that time of year when we ask a renowned ballroom expert to weigh in on the free dances of the top ice dance teams that will compete at the World Figure Skating Championships.

This year, icenetwork is most fortunate to have Tony Dovolani, world rhythm champion and Dancing with the Stars veteran, share his thoughts. Dovolani is not only an acclaimed dancer but a highly respected teacher. He and partners Maks Chmerkovskiy and Val Chmerkovskiy recently opened their ninth Dance with Me studio.

"A true joy in my life is to be able to give dance to every person," Dovolani said.

While he won't appear in the upcoming season of DWTS, Dovolani will perform live in Dance to the Movies, a star-studded touring stage show that reimagines some classic films.

As we do every year, we remind readers that Dovolani is giving his opinions strictly from a dance perspective and not from a skating standpoint.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Canada

"They have flawless transitions from one move to the next," Dovolani said. "The continuity of their movement is something to admire. They're so musical and yet their bodies never lose athleticism."

He said Virtue and Moir represent a very strong female-male presence on the ice and their choreography is very inventive. He found it continuous, with seamless transitions.

"The choreography was four dimensional because it was projecting to every direction," Dovolani said. "As an audience member, even though I was watching it on a computer, I still felt like it was alive. That's very rare to accomplish."

The only critique Dovolani offered is that when Virtue and Moir are in a closed dance hold, Moir's right arm drops a bit, which in ballroom would detract from the frame.

"I feel like these two really work well together," Dovolani said.

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, United States

Dovolani said the Shibutanis are excellent skaters with very detailed choreography, and he liked the story they told.

"I find them to be very intricate as far as choreography and concept," he said. "They really have an incredible connection as a couple on the ice. As far as musicality, I was left wanting more.

"The program was definitely emotional," he added. "That's something I loved about this couple. They really bring emotion to life. You could tell the heaviness and lightness in the projection of the emotion. I enjoyed the journey I took when they were telling the story."

Dovolani said he wished the Shibutanis' lines were a bit more extended, saying they go to "about 95 percent, but never to 100."

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, France

Dovolani described Papadakis and Cizeron's choreography as "amazing" and felt it flowed and had strong emotion. The French brought artistry to life, Dolovani said; he felt like the two of them were floating through the air while they danced.

"You could tell the connection these two have with one another is based on trust," he said. "The choreography was very emotional, very soft, strong when it needed to be; it had a lot of interesting parts. It had impact. It had impulse. It had bound. It had free energy. All of those energies were really displayed beautifully in this couple.

"There's a part of them you keep with you after you watch them," he added. "They leave a really great impression. They're exquisite. You can't take your eyes off of them."

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, Italy

When Cappellini and Lanotte's free dance began, Dovolani was intrigued by their comedic sense, but he felt the couple didn't fully dedicate themselves to the theme of the program.

"Obviously, they're great skaters; they're very fast," Dovolani said. "Their transitions are incredibly fast. Maybe because they're Italian, I expected more artistry, but I saw more skill than artistry.

"The choreography was good, but I didn't think they stayed with the concept of what they were trying to bring across," he added. "If you go with concept that's a little bit out of the box, which I like, then you have to go all the way in. I felt these guys went maybe 80 percent in."

Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, Russia

Dovolani described Bobrova and Soloviev as "stunning" and said their lines are beautiful to watch. He found them to be "the most striking couple" with regard to their presence on the ice.

"Their choreography was very intricate, very different," he said. "What I noticed about this particular piece of choreography was that there were a lot of little things that if you're not paying attention, you might miss. You like it, but if you don't pay attention, you don't realize why you liked it.

"There are a lot of different things they picked up through music in the choreography," he continued. "Most people go for the obvious counts. These guys were able to put the most subtle changes in the music into their bodies. I felt the artistry was amazing. There was definitely light and shade. I felt, emotionally, they were both available."