Miller, MacMillan tango, waltz their way to lead

Wheaton Academy team wins novice pattern dances

Whitney Miller found her step in the Starlight Waltz by imagining she was at a ball.
Whitney Miller found her step in the Starlight Waltz by imagining she was at a ball. (Tom Briglia)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(01/22/2012) - The 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships opened Sunday morning with the novice pattern dances, where Whitney Miller and Kyle MacMillan took top honors in both the Argentine Tango and Starlight Waltz.

The Eastern Sectional champions, who recorded the nation's highest qualifying score, earned 50.06 points to take a 2.55-point lead over Holly Moore and Daniel Klaber heading into Monday's free dance. Their Argentine Tango, marked by brisk turns and MacMillan's strong lead, notched 22.90 points, edging Moore and Klaber by just 0.25 points.

"There were one or two things we could have done better, but overall, it was pretty solid," MacMillan, 14, said. "We wanted to achieve all of our check points -- the edges and turns -- which is the basis of the technical score."

"My biggest thing was to perform my best and give the crowd a good show," Miller, 13, said.

Their Starlight Waltz looked light and easy, flowing over the ice for 27.16 points.

"I really tried to act as if I was at a ball, and that helped keep that light feeling," Miller said.

The youngsters, who have skated together for 10 months, train at Alexei Kiliakov's Wheaton Skating Academy in Maryland, one of the nation's leading grass-roots ice dance centers. Last season's U.S. novice champions, Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons, train at Wheaton, and it has five teams competing here this week. It also fielded six teams at the 2012 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships in December.

"Training there is the best experience," MacMillan said. "The other teams are our friends and competitors and they push us to go further each day. It's an incredibly optimistic environment."

Moore and Klaber, who placed eighth in novice at the 2011 U.S. Championships, showed strong character in their mature, aggressive Argentine Tango and a far lighter touch in their Starlight Waltz.

"We both have strong personalities, so we kind of just pop right into character for the Argentine Tango," Klaber, 17, said. "We don't have any special preparation."

Moore admitted she preferred the Starlight Waltz.

"It's so much fun and a lot less serious," the 16-year-old said.

The teens split their training time between Cleveland and Detroit, where they share the ice with French European champions Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat, and Canadian champions Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

"Just being on the ice at the same time as those teams is incredible," Klaber said.

Hannah Rosinski and Jacob Jaffe, who train in Cleveland under Jackie Miles and Chip Rossbach, placed third in each dance and take 44.42 points into the final.

"The two dances are so different, it's hard to transition, but I think we did a nice job," Rosinski, 16, said.

Chloe Rose Lewis and Logan Bye are fourth with 38.62 points.

Novice ice dance notes: This season, for the first time ever, teams may skate the Argentine Tango to music of their own choosing, and everything from the classic "La Cumparsita" to Broadway's "Hernando's Hideaway" wafted through the arena.

"The USFS developmental program started it this season for juvenile through novice teams," Brandon Forsyth, the choreographer for Rosinsi and Jaffe, said. "It's very much appreciated. Parents can really relate to it. I mean, you don't have to sit through 'Edelweiss' 32 times."

Five-time U.S. ice dance champion Judy Blumberg, who is part of Lewis and Bye's coaching team, agreed.

"It's a fantastic move," she said. "Even though the teams are all doing the same steps, it gives it a different flavor. The crowd doesn't get bored and the dancers can show their stuff."

Next season, teams will choose their own music for the Starlight Waltz.

Blumberg also applauded the protocols, which now show the levels attained for each sequence of each pattern dance.

"It really shows the kids what they need to work on; in the Argentine, it's making the change of edge together, the twizzle, the Choctaw [step] and the cross rolls at the end," she said.

"I'm so glad novices still do these compulsories [unlike junior and senior teams]. They still have a lot of skating skills to work on and these dances provide the basics."