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Denney, Barrett hope to be a "Rhapsody in Blue"

David Wilson doing programs for U.S. pairs champs

Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett have ended their professional relationship with coaches Jim Peterson, Lyndon Johnston and Alison Smith.
Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett have ended their professional relationship with coaches Jim Peterson, Lyndon Johnston and Alison Smith. (Paul Harvath)

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By Amy Rosewater, special to icenetwork.com
(05/28/2010) - Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett's lives still haven't slowed much since their whirlwind competitive season came to a close.

The couple won its first U.S. title, earned a trip to the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, placed seventh at the 2010 World Championships, was feted with a hometown parade, made appearances with the Smucker's Stars on Ice tour and visited the White House. And Denney, who turns 17 on June 22, is even learning how to drive, with hopes of getting her driver's license next month.

The U.S. pairs skating champions took a little bit of a breather for a couple of weeks -- Barrett kicked back a bit at the beach; Denney took spins in the car with her dad -- but now they are back at work, crafting their short and long programs in Toronto with choreographer David Wilson. The short program music will be revealed at a later date, and the free skate is to the George Gershwin classic, "Rhapsody in Blue.''

"I feel like this has all happened really, really fast and now we're back at the beginning again, back to square one,'' Denney said.

But being back on the ice is where they feel the most comfortable and both Denney and Barrett are excited to be working with Wilson. This season, the couple's third together, is the first in which the team is working with a choreographer other than their coach, Jim Peterson.

It was actually Peterson's idea to seek out a top choreographer for the team, and he went to Toronto with his skaters for the first few days of choreography sessions. Peterson returned to Florida because of other coaching commitments but Denney and Barrett will be in Toronto for a total of 10 days.

Denney and Barrett have been a very consistent team technically, but Peterson hopes they can reach a new level internationally by ramping up their choreography.

"They had a great season; that goes without saying,'' Peterson said. "And they did great in Vancouver and Torino as well, but I want to do everything I can to help this team and to help the country get three pairs teams at worlds. We're looking at the podium.

"I'm so happy the kids have this opportunity to really take them to another level.''

Wilson has designed programs for numerous elite skaters, including Yu-Na Kim's James Bond girl short program that helped vault her to the Olympic gold medal in Vancouver. He said he aware of Denney and Barrett's skating before Peterson contacted him about working with the team. Wilson was at the 2009 U.S. Championships in Cleveland, to help support some of his skaters, Adam Rippon and Alissa Czisny, and took notice of Denney and Barrett then.

"I remember the reaction from the crowd and all of the backstage drama, people talking and saying they should have won,'' Wilson said. "I know they've had these two amazing years. I think with pairs and dance teams, there's either a magic or there's not, and I think these two definitely have magic.''

Not long after Denney and Barrett arrived in Toronto, Wilson showed them some video of Canadian world champions Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini and told the young Americans Denney and Barrett that Underhill and Martini were not romantically linked. Yet, one might have thought that by the way they performed on the ice.

"I wanted them to get a sense of where I was heading with them,'' Wilson said.

Denney and Barrett are not an off-the-ice couple, by the way. Barrett's girlfriend is Amanda Evora, a fellow Olympic pairs skater who trains at the same rink with Mark Ladwig.

Denney and Barrett have been working with Wilson for three hours a day on private sessions at a rink in Toronto called The Sports Village.

Prior to their arrival in Toronto, Wilson had started putting together the couple's long program first. Wilson chose "Rhapsody in Blue'' in part because of its romantic quality but also because he can showcase the couple's "sense of humor and charm.''

The short program proved to be more challenging, Wilson said.

"The short program is really, really important because it needs to make a statement and it needs to put them up a notch, to create a good setup for the long,'' Wilson said.

After listening to virtually every kind of music he could think of, a friend of Wilson's who edits music gave him the winner.

"This music a tentative feeling, almost an innocence to it, but it also has big sweeping crescendos and there is a hint of drama when their footwork comes in,'' Wilson said. "My music guy saved the day.''

Denney and Barrett, who are in Toronto until Saturday with Wilson, are thrilled so far.

"I think it's great to get a new set of eyes looking at our skating,'' Barrett said. "We have learned so much already and are gelling with him personally. He's really going out of his way to make these two programs our programs.''

Denney added that she already has noticed a difference in the couple's skating.

"He's a fun choreographer to work with,'' Denney said. "And I really feel like he's bringing out the best with me and Jeremy.''

Soon, they will make the migration south to their training rink in Ellington, Fla., and Wilson plans to make a few "touch-up'' visits there during the season.

And Peterson, who coaches Denney and Barrett (as well as Evora and Ladwig) along with Lyndon Johnston, also noted that Judy Blumberg will work with both teams as well. Blumberg, a two-time U.S. ice dancing Olympian and TV commentator, will work with Evora and Ladwig on footwork and will focus on stroking exercises with Denney and Barrett.

"We accomplished a really big goal this past season,'' Denney said. "Now we are setting new goals.''