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Delaware, Detroit teams battle it out in Lake Placid

Cannuscio, Lorello win free dance; Hubbell, Donohue steam up the ice

Isabella Cannuscio and Ian Lorello were tops in the senior free skate in Lake Placid.
Isabella Cannuscio and Ian Lorello were tops in the senior free skate in Lake Placid. (Daphne Backman)

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By Lynn Rutherford and Alexandra Stevenson, special to icenetwork.com
(08/01/2011) - The annual Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships always attracts the world's largest field of competitors in the discipline.

U.S. champions and, in the case of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, world champions emerge out of this event. But there was so much talent on display July 28-July 30 that picking who will claim future gold is almost impossible.

Eighteen couples took part in this year's senior free dance, which was won by Isabella Cannuscio, 20, and Ian Lorello, 21. With a one-point deduction for a too-long lift, their very powerful showing set to Les Miserables earned 76.12 points, a small fraction ahead of the new pairing of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue.

Cannuscio and Lorello, who were sixth in 2011 United States Figure Skating Championships in their first season of senior competition, train at the University of Delaware under Karen Ludington, Alexander Kirsanov and Christie Moxley.

"I didn't have any expectations of where we would place," Cannuscio, who hails from Egg Harbor, N.Y., said. "We just wanted to show our improvement from last season and we always like to do something entertaining.

"We've done routines to The Godfather and West Side Story before, but this is a more intense direction. Today wasn't our best skate. We got tired at the end because we put everything into it. There were some trips here and there, but we were pleased overall with the way we attacked it."

Lorello, whose hometown is Gambrills, M.D., agreed.

"The technical elements are a work in progress," he said. "We were really trying to portray more of the story line. There are some things that we'll have to go over, but it's a good start. It was our first competition of the season. We showed we are progressing and we have potential."

The event was so early in the season that the couple performed their free skate in basic black practice outfits.

"Our costumes are coming from Russia and have not arrived yet," Cannuscio said. "We really didn't have anything suitable, and we didn't want to wear something which would have interfered with the whole look of the program."

Earlier, Cannuscio and Lorello -- who both have siblings who compete in ice dance -- finished second in short dance group B with 47.19, almost six points behind Charlotte Lichtman and Dean Copely, who train in Canton, Mich., under Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva. Lichtman and Copely, the U.S. junior champions, were sixth in the free dance.

This season, senior ice dancers are required to perform two sequences of the Rumba compulsory (or pattern) dance in their short dances. The Rumba patterns do not have to be consecutive. (Juniors perform two consecutive sequences of the Cha Cha Congelado.) The rest of the program may be choreographed to Cha Cha, Rhumba, Samba, Mambo or Merengue rhythms.

"Last year in Lake Placid, we got only Level 1 and Level 2 for the Golden Waltz sequences of our short dance, so this year getting two Level 3's for the Rumba is an improvement," Cannuscio said.

"However, I still have to struggle with the Open Choctaw [step] because I'm short (4'11"). My legs are not as long as Ian's so stepping out at least two blade lengths is very difficult. I think you'll see that with the shorter girls."

Performing their free to I Put a Spell on You, Hubbell, wearing a flame colored peek-a-boo dress, steamed up the ice with Donohue in a very intense routine.

At the end, Donohue collapsed on the ice while Hubbell turned her back on him and the judges and sashayed to the other side of the rink.

"It was absolutely brilliant," declared an awe-struck Paul Dredge, a Briton who competed in Lake Placid as a junior with Danielle Calthorpe. "I've never seen anything like it."

The routine, choreographed by the team's coaches, Pasquale Camerlengo, Anjelika Krylova and Massimo Scali, tells the story of a difficult relationship.

"He doesn't treat me that well," Hubbell said. "We struggle through the relationship with good times and bad times and at the end, I'm just sick of it and I break up with him. So I just leave him in the dust. But it in no way reflects our own relationship."

"I swear I'm a gentleman," Donohue said.

The skaters, teamed this spring by their coaches at the Detroit Skating Club, hope to impress U.S. Skating officials enough to gain an international assignment.

"We didn't really come in with any expectations for placing," Hubbell said. "We really just wanted to show the judges and the technical panel that we're making progress. We're a strong team and even though we have a lot of things to work on, especially with our technical level, we're strong enough for it being the end of July."

Hubbell and Donohue won the short dance group B with 50.24 points, edging training partners Anastasia Olson and Jordan Cowan, who placed second with 48.65.

Olson and Cowan inadvertently stirred up controversy when the judging panel saddled them with a two-point deduction for a lift that included "an unacceptable split position of more than 180 degrees." They also lost ground when the lift, which they had hoped would rate a Level 4, was reduced to Level 1. Olson and Cowan finished third in the free skate with 70.88.

Protocols to feature expanded short dance feedback
All coaches, competitors and officials in Lake Placid were invited to attend a discussion regarding the short dances, led by Halina Gordon Poltarek, Chair of the ISU Ice Dance Technical Committee and Bob Horen, member of the ISU Ice Dance Technical Committee.

The big news: this season, junior and senior skaters may review specific information on how judges think they performed the key features of the Rumba sequences or, for juniors, the Cha Cha Congelado sequences, right on the short dance protocols.

"I like how they will be naming on the elements' feedback information which feature was missed in the rumba, and that they have a video available so we can look at the mistakes," Cannuscio said.

"We just had a seminar in Maryland in June, a dance camp, so we're really keeping up with all the changes," Lorello said.