The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew - May 19

2011-12 music, lots of 'swans' and nuclear engineering

The Haydenettes perform.
The Haydenettes perform. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(05/19/2011) - We must admit, we keep watching the dance competition from the 2011 World Championships over and over. It was so exciting and the quality of the skating was superlative. We are thrilled for new world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and we also loved every costume they wore this past season. We asked Davis which was her favorite.

"Well, with a staggering three short dance dresses and five free dance dresses this season, I had lots of options!" she said. "We have a wonderful seamstress at home in Detroit who is so patient with me in the all-important process of costuming. My favorite dress I wore this season, though, was my 2007 original dance dress I decided to use again for our free dance at nationals. It has always been one of my favorite dresses, and I had fun wearing it again in Greensboro."

Davis always looks glamorous and elegant, on and off the ice. What did she wear to the final banquet?

"I wore a blue dress by Mason at the worlds banquet," she said. "Apparently though, I have not yet mastered the art of dressing myself. I decided to put on some body lotion just before slipping the dress on. By the end of the evening, the body lotion had seeped through and left huge blotches all over the silk dress."

And the lovely Davis sighed.

Ashley Wagner, Stephen Carriere and Gretchen Donlan and Andrew Speroff were the guest stars of the "Ice Time 2011" Hayden Figure Skating Club show last weekend in Lexington, Mass.

Wagner, who turned 20 on May 16, told us she was heading to California on Tuesday to get her new Pollock short program choreographed by Phillip Mills.

"For the long, I'm skating to Black Swan, and I am so excited about it," she said. "Phillip also choreographed that one and he did a phenomenal job. It's basically Swan Lake, but movie-fied! We tried to take the classical approach."

Wagner says she will be interpreting Natalie Portman's character from the movie.

"I feel like I have both sides to me," she said. "I have Nina, who represents the white swan, who is gentle, sweet and kind, but I then I have the black swan side to me, which is darker and more powerful. I start off the program as the white swan, kind of getting the audience into it, and slowly building up to the big boom where I turn into the black swan. For the majority of the program I'm supposed to be this strong character.

"I really like it, because I've never done a program like this before. I typically choose really strong powerful music, and this is very classical and unlike anything I've ever skated to before. But it's kind of a happy medium because I get to be that robust character that I usually like to portray, to softer music."

Wagner says the costume will probably be all black, and will be classical and balletic in appearance. As for her skating, she says she is mostly trying to maintain her technique right now.

"I'm working on the program as a whole, the choreography, and connecting everything. I'm working on transitions, going in and out of jumps, making sure that everything's fluid. I want to be sure everything is nice and polished by the time the season picks up."

Wagner also told us she was accepted to St. Joseph University and wait-listed at Villanova. She expected to hear about the latter on May 21.

While talking to Donlan, 17 and Speroff, who turns 23 this week, we noticed they often finish each others' sentences -- a good sign for a pair team! They told us they're in the midst of getting new programs for next season.

"Our short is going to be 'O mio babbino caro,'" said Speroff. "That was Gretchen's mom's idea. She played it for me once and I've never decided on a program so quickly. I was like, 'We're skating to that.'"

"Sheryl Franks and Deidre Williams are doing the choreography, and Carrie Wall always does the footwork," added Donlan.

"The long will be to Sleeping Beauty." Speroff went on. "It's really good -- it's one of my favorite programs I've ever done, so far."

They are capitalizing on their classical look, which Andrew says is their niche. "We're putting the Led Zeppelin away for now, unfortunately."

They'll be doing a double Axel-double Axel combination next season, and adding side-by-side triple toes in the short as well as the long.

We asked what they felt they learned from spending time with Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao in Boston last month.

"That was amazing," said Speroff. "When they're on the ice, you don't even skate, you just watch them. Their chemistry is amazing. We learned that chemistry is probably the most important thing. People have elements and choreography and skating skills, but when you see a good pair team that completely draws you in I think it's because of their relationship with each other and how they interact with each other."

"They're such a cut above, you can just tell right away," went on Donlan. "They're Olympic champions, but..." "They're such a nice, humble team," finished Speroff.

Do you think it's possible to create that magic without being a couple off the ice?

"Oh well, you know, I've asked Gretchen out a couple times, but she keeps saying no!" joked Speroff, who then cracked up completely, as did Donlan.

"I don't think it has to be a romantic love kind of thing, but having mutual respect for each other... I mean, we're best friends. You have that connection, that care for the other person," said Donlan.

The teams plans to debut both new programs at Liberty.

Two-time world bronze medalists the Haydenettes showed off their wonderful speed and technique at the show, to a chorus of deafening screams from the crowd. Backstage, we talked to a couple of team members who hadn't skated on the team the previous season, and who had therefore just won their first world medals.

"I skated with the Haydenettes for four years and then last year I wasn't on the team," said Rachel Ferrucci.

"Winning a medal at worlds was a goal I really wanted to accomplish. From day one it was our top goal for the season. The competition was great. The crowd there was indescribable. They were just so energetic and very enthusiastic about everything. They gave equal support for every team that went out."

"This is my first year," said Noelle Pearson. "This is my first ice show at Hayden, and everything! It was different for me. I think there was a lot of pressure coming into this season to try and repeat and I don't think that at the beginning of the season we really knew the potential that the team had, until we started competing in December. Once December came, and we had our first competition, and we changed our music, people saw that "Wow, this team could be just as good as last year or better," and that's when we really started working."

"It was different from last year when we were skating at home," added veteran member Erika Hoffman, "But the crowd was really supportive and it was exciting to defend our bronze medal."

Nuclear engineering
We got an update last week from Curran Oi, who is just finishing up his sophomore year at MIT.

"I'm doing well," he emailed. "I'm studying nuclear engineering (and might also be double majoring in physics).

Interestingly, that means I have the occasional class with Jeremy Steeger, because he's a physics major. I'm not sure if you remember him, but he made it to Easterns once or twice at Novice or Junior.

"I haven't really skated in the last month, because the MIT rink is closed. Apparently I miss it, though, because my friends have noticed that I've been spinning on the floor of our little kitchen area more than normal."

Cute. We miss his skating as well!

More music
Carriere had already told us that his long program would be to Swan Lake; his short will be to two pieces from Louis Armstrong, La Vie En Rose and "Mack the Knife."

"I took the instrumental parts and blended them," he said. As for the long program, he added, "It's a tough one. It is really, really kicking my butt right now. I've been starting to do all the choreography and putting it together."

Alexander Johnson's new short program is to "O mio babbino caro," and his long is to the Khachaturian ballet Gayane.

"The piece of music we chose for the short is a favorite of mine and I've wanted to skate to it for years," Johnson said.

Wesley Campbell's new short program will be to Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez." For the long program, he'll be skating to The Mission.

"It's a piece of music I have wanted to use for my ENTIRE career," said Campbell. I'll compete it first in Lake Placid at the end of June."

He and Joci Sierra have decided not to pursue their pairs partnership -- she broke her foot and was off the ice for several months. They didn't feel there would be time to be ready for summer and fall competitions. He is continuing with singles and plans to compete at Liberty.

"I adore Joci and wish nothing but the best for her future," Campbell said.

Sarah and Drew
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