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Short dance shocker! Virtue and Moir triumph

Canadian favorites suprise no one by topping Paris field

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir take a lead of almost five points into the free dance.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir take a lead of almost five points into the free dance. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/18/2011) - Rumba and samba set fire to the Paris ice at Bercy arena Friday night.

Dancing teams managed to express quite different approaches to those dances. Rather ironically, the first group of teams seemed to have chosen parrot-like outfits, with orange, pink and yellow fluo. The second group was fortunately far more sober in their expression, although their skating was as lively and entertaining.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada captured both first place and the hearts of the French audience as they ended their short dance. Skating to their medley, including "HipHip ChinChin" and Diana Krall's "Temptation," they displayed the incredible speed of their steps and amazing capacity to skate together, whatever the sequence and movements.

"We made more mistakes than we usually do," Moir said afterward, "But when we got to the boards, we saw that Marina [Zoueva, who coaches them] was happy, so we trusted our coach."

Their rumba sequences got Level 3, their curve lift and twizzles a Level 4. Adding the best components, they hit 71.18 points all together, less than half a point from their season best.

Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat were skating last in front of their home audience. They skated their short dance flawlessly for the first time in competition this season (Bourzat fell at Skate America). Although they did not catch the 2010 world and Olympic champions, they came much closer than ever before, as they will start their free dance Saturday only 4.66 points behind Virtue and Moir.

"We wanted to skate something really fun and wild and entertaining. We like the idea to take the audience to the beach as soon as music starts!" Bourzat told icenetwork.com prior to the event.

Their rumba sequences are completely integrated into their routine, to produce something like "an evening in Rio."

"Compulsory rumba does not have many changes of positions, so we needed to find a way to sustain the character of the dance," he said afterward.

"Unfortunately, creation is not rewarded by points," Péchalat said, "Yet it is rewarded by the audience's love for our sport."

"Creating a story is really key for us whenever we skate," she said, "And we are glad it pleased the audience here."

The French duo got Level 4 and 3 for their compulsory rumba sequences. Their final jump, when Péchalat made Bourzat turn above her shoulder, drove the crowd wild to end the evening.

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, the Italian team, adapted their romantic approach to ice dancing to their rumba.

"We started to work on this dance quite early last season," Capellini explained. "We wanted to give the idea of Latin soul. This is really what we want to show."

Their final fast-paced samba was dramatically different from the start of their program. They got Level 4 on three of their four elements and a total of 64.62 points, their season best.

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, from Russia, who finished seventh at 2011 worlds and took the bronze medal at NHK one week ago, took a more traditional approach to both rumba and samba. A lack of originality and desynchronized twizzles led them to fourth place.

The newly formed team of Madison Chock and Evan Bates showed their progress, and one could witness it in the scores, as they hit their new season best, with 52.01 points. Their approach was more ballroom style, with soft rather than sharp movements.

"We worked with a ballroom dancer to get the authentic feel," Bates explained. "Our work was to incorporate the ballroom steps and moves we learned onto the ice."

"We are a new team, so every competition is proportionally very important for us," Chock added.

Several teams proved that although Salsa and rumba are widely considered as mostly static in space, true artists could turn them into flying masterpieces, through long and deep edges.