Ice Network

Dance off: Pro dancer dissects world's top teams

Karmiryan says connection is key ahead of world championships
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'So You Think You Can Dance' alum Paul Karmiryan shared his thoughts on five ice dance teams headed to Shanghai. -Mathieu Young/FOX

In what has become an icenetwork tradition, we asked a prominent professional dancer to watch the free dances of five of the ice dance teams competing at the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships. Dancing since age 9, Paul Karmiryan finished in the top six on season 10 of So You Think You Can Dance after having previously won the Armenian version of the show, Parir te Karogh Es.

A huge skating fan, Karmiryan, 23, acknowledged he's not familiar with the technical aspects of ice dance and is giving his opinion strictly from a dancer's perspective.

"I feel that performance is universal," Karmiryan said. "I'm looking at it from that point of view and perspective."

Madison Chock and Evan Bates

Karmiryan was impressed with Chock and Bates' synchronized movement, especially in their turns. He also found their lifts very interesting.

"I feel their balance control and lift control were executed really well, especially in their transitions," he said.

He felt they weren't fully committed to their posture and their presence, and could have taken that up a notch. At certain times, he felt the chemistry and connection, but at others, those qualities seemed less clear.

"It's important you perform with a certain presence," he said. "I felt there were moments where they weren't completely present, and their movement seemed a little more placed. Instead, one move to another, the fluidity and the flow weren't completely there. It was like one move after another rather than telling a story completely.

"What I really appreciated was they were very clean and they seemed extremely well rehearsed," he added. "That in itself is really important."

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron

Karmiryan found Papadakis and Cizeron compelling, saying he was immersed in their performance. He complimented their simple but effective costumes.

"You could tell from the moment they locked eyes, they were completely in the story. Even their chemistry together and the connection that they displayed was completely genuine," Karmiryan said. "From their posture to their sensitivity to their presence, they were completely in the performance.

"I got captured by their story," he added. "It was mesmerizing."

He made note of their synchronized movement and music choice, and he found them graceful and light across the ice.

"Everything seemed to flow and melt together," he said. "They seemed to have a background in ballet. From their posture, they had a very polished look about them.

"Guillaume was very strong, and Gabriella complemented him very well," he added. "They had great eye contact and understanding of the other partner's presence. It seemed effortless."

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje

"They had amazing side-by-side movements, especially in their turn sequences, and the way that they worked together to be clean and crisp impressed me," Karmiryan said of Weaver and Poje. "They had beautiful technique in lifts, definitely.

"I felt their timing was nearly flawless in their partner work," he added. "They did an amazing and beautiful performance."

In terms of critique, Karmiryan noted that, at times, the movement seemed placed. He is a stickler for connection, and said he didn't fully feel that from Weaver and Poje throughout the program.

"When you're thinking too much, you get in your head and you're not fully committed in the performance," he explained, saying that the same thing has happened to him. "Like actors, dancers and skaters are people telling a story. In that sense, I felt they went in and out at times."

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte

To Karmiryan's eye, Cappellini and Lanotte's performance was based on fierceness and charisma, and they did a great job with it. They hit the accents in the music beautifully.

"From the energy that they were giving off, they were very powerful and a very fierce couple," he said. "They executed a different energy from the other couples.

"As a critique, at times, I wanted to see Anna display a little more femininity and gracefulness in the movement," he added.

He also said some lines weren't fully extended.

Although he didn't know that the ice dancers performed a paso doble as part of the short dance, he referred to the ballroom paso doble for an illustration.

"In the paso doble, the women have to be very fierce. But, at the same time, they have to show a feminine quality that distinguishes their fierceness from the masculine fierceness," Karmiryan said. "I felt that she could have shown that a little more."

Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin

He said Stepanova and Bukin captured his attention right at the onset. He found their costumes very effective.

"They start off beautifully -- from their music choice and choreographic fluidity and continuous transitions, from one beautiful line to the next through their storyline," Karmiryan said. "I loved their posture. They were very balletic and graceful. They had a good mixture of sharp and fluid movement.

"Toward the end, the music changed," he added. "When the music changed, I kind of got disconnected a little bit. Maybe it was because of the way that they tried to connect the choreography with the musicality of it. There seemed to be a few awkward lines and transitions that I felt didn't match the music completely."

Karmiryan felt this couple's perfomance was a bit disjointed, lacking a complete connection between the beginning, the middle and the end.

"There were sometimes an over-exaggeration of arms that were kind of unnecessary," he noted. "I felt the end lost its spark."