Ice Network

Cain, Davydov find the beat in intermediate dance

Teams emphasize importance of hitting key points during pattern dances
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Claire Cain and Andrei Davydov won the first pattern dance and finished runner-up in the second, and with a total score of 47.49, the Maryland-based team will take a 1.61-point lead into Tuesday's free dance. -Jay Adeff

As intermediate ice dancers presented their tango and Fourteenstep pattern dances in San Jose on Monday, the talk was all about key points -- the prescribed turns, edges and steps technical panels review when awarding levels.

And how to balance the intense focus on those specific movements, while still expressing the character of the dances, is the challenge.

"You spend a lot of time in this judging system trying to get the calls so the technical specialist gives the points, but you don't want to lose the ice dance aspect of it," said coach Robert Peal, whose children, Elliana and Ethan, placed third.

Andrei Davydov, who leads the event with partner Claire Cain, thinks it's all a matter of repetition.

"At a certain point, it becomes muscle memory to do the key points, and once that's done, you can only focus on expression," Davydov said. "That's the best way to get the most points possible."

Cain and Davydov, who train at Maryland's Wheaton Ice Skating Academy (WISA), were first in the tango and second in the Fourteenstep, which they inventively skated to an instrumental version of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust." Their combined 47.49 points gave them a 1.61-point lead heading into the free dance.

"We really tried to get our key points, and tried to get our expression at the same time, so we could perform to the audience," Cain said.

"The tango went very well; we got almost all of our key points," Davydov said. "We are a little upset didn't get one of the mohawk (steps)."

As usual, WISA is well represented at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, with ice dance couples at all levels of competition -- so many, in fact, that Cain and Davydov have lost count.

"There are three juvenile couples, one intermediate couple, which is us, two novice couples...," Davydov said.

"There's a ton junior," Cain added. (Five junior WISA teams will compete in San Jose.)

"...and two seniors," Davydov continued. "It's really nice to work with them. We get to look at people at higher levels than us and say, 'I really like that,' and add the moves to our own dances."

Anna Gissibl and Alexander Colucci placed second in the tango and first in the Fourteenstep to take second place with 45.88 points.

"The first pattern of the tango was good, but I rushed my key point in the second one a little bit," Colucci said.

"We had good flow in the Fourteenstep," Gissibl said.

The couple, who train under Slava Uchitel in Philadelphia, teamed up last May. They aspire to someday compete as seniors at the U.S. championships.

"Our goal is to see it through together to the end," Colucci said.

The Peal siblings, who are based in the Chicago area, ranked third in both pattern dances and enter the free dance with 43.61 points. Their Fourteenstep, set to a patriotic march, was especially light and lively.

"I enjoy the Fourteenstep a little more than the tango," Elliana said. "I can get more expression out of it, and more speed and energy."

"Key points are a big part of the dance, and we try to balance it out without losing the artistry," Ethan said. "We work a lot on trying to get the calls and still enjoy the dance."

Nastia Efimova and Jonathan Zhao were fourth in both pattern dances and earned 40.00 points.