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Springs snips: Virtue's new dress an eye-catcher

Weaver, Poje go Rumba crazy; Yankee Polka no barrel of laughs

Tessa Virtue shows off her new short dance dress at practice on Thursday.
Tessa Virtue shows off her new short dance dress at practice on Thursday. (Sarah S. Brannen)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(02/10/2012) - Tessa Virtue never disappoints.

The stylish Canadian unveiled an eye-catching new violet dress with gold beaded flowers and a "criss-cross" back at Thursday's short dance practice, gaining "Ahhs!" of approval from diehard ice dancing fans in attendance.

Some of Virtue's creations -- including a little black number she tested out at the Grand Prix Final for the free dance -- never see the light of competition, but she's using this stunner to infuse some extra oomph into the Latin short dance.

"This one is especially timely, just because we've struggled a little bit with this program, getting it comfortable and performing it the way we wanted to, the way we've been practicing it at home throughout the season," Virtue said. "We've made some really great changes to it, and I think this dress just accentuates all that. And it's always good this time in the season, it makes it fresh."

Scott Moir, standing by in his form-fitting slacks and shirt, is sticking with what works.

"No one ever asks me about my black," he said. "I went for no change."

Moir's basic black is about the only thing that's remained steady in the Olympic champions' short dance. They unveiled one version at the Finlandia Trophy, revised it a bit for the Grand Prix series, gave it a serious overhaul before the Canadian championships and tinkered with it again before this event.

"It's nothing unusual this time of year," Moir said. "We're kind of striving for perfection. We want to get the program pretty much perfect, and you have to make little tweaks.

"We knew we would kind of reset after Grand Prix Final; also, we needed to have a little bit of down time with the year so long. Now we've made some great changes with the program; it feels comfortable and it's starting to really go. It's looking like it's building and ready to peak here and at worlds."

In the week between the Canadian championships, where Virtue and Moir won their fourth title, and Four Continents, the skaters and their coaches, Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva, focused on footwork and the program's ending.

"The elements you'll see here are more similar to Canadians than [those at the] Grand Prix Final, but there are some we went back to," Moir said. "We put the lift at the end, to get some excitement."

"We kind of played with the circle steps a little and then some minor transition steps," Virtue said. "The ending is kind of a mash-up. The steps definitely feel more comfortable."

The couple's free dance, to music from Funny Face, is steady-as-she-goes.

"No changes since nationals," Moir said. "Improving the elements is the key focus. You've really got to milk those GOEs [grades of execution]."

Krylova cracks her whip on Weaver, Poje

It's been a breakout season for Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who seem to get better with each competition. The Canadian silver medalists won three silver medals on the Grand Prix circuit and placed a close fourth at the Final, and they're hoping for more hardware here.

"The time between [the Canadian championships] and this competition was the most intense we've had all season," Weaver said. "Before and during the Grand Prix, it was building and maintaining. It was a physical challenge and a mental challenge. Our coaches worked hard getting us to the next level, and I think it paid off because we feel much stronger here than we did at Canadians."

So what have they been working on?

"Rumba, Rumba, Rumba, Rumba," Weaver said, referring to the two sequences of the pattern dance included in the Latin American short.

"It's a very difficult dance even though it looks simplistic. It's hard anatomically to be able to turn your feet for the girls; for me, I'm not naturally turned out.

"Also, it's so simple, it's difficult. You can hide little mistakes in the Golden Waltz, because there are so many steps, you don't have to do every single one perfect in order to get to the next one. The judges are so on top of every little edge of this dance because there's not that many of them."

Fortunately, the couple's coaching team at the Detroit Skating Club (DSC), including Pasquale Camerlengo and his wife, two-time world champion Anjelika Krylova, has a wealth of experience.

"Anjelika is our Rumba drill sergeant," Weaver said.

Yankee Polka no laughing matter

News that the Yankee Polka would be the required pattern in next season's short dance hit the ice dance world like, well, a barrel of bricks.

"I think it will be a real challenge to draw people and get people interested in ice dance with everyone doing the Yankee Polka," Moir said. "That's just my thought."

Moir, who hails from London, Ont. -- the site of the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships -- hopes his fellow Canucks will embrace the exuberant dance.

"We're going to be skating in my hometown, and that's tough," he said. "All of my buddies, they're not going to like the Yankee Polka. But we're just athletes, we do as we're told. If they want us to do Yankee Polka, we'll do it. If they want us out there doing the Fourteen Step, we'll do that."

U.S. bronze medalist Madison Hubbell, who stands about 5'8" and is partnered with Zachary Donohue, who is well over 6 feet, has a different concern.

"I've never competed the Yankee Polka, but I keep hearing it's harder to do if you're tall," she said.

"Of course, once we do master it, being taller may make the steps look more impressive," Donohue said.

Accordions and clarinets are uppermost in Charlie White's thoughts.

"It's tough," he said. "We enjoy doing it, it's a fun dance, but on the other hand having to listen to all that Polka music is going to be a little bit annoying."

Meryl Davis, on the other hand, leads the Polka parade.

"It's my favorite dance," she said. "I think it's going to make a better short dance than the Rumba did. It's much more interesting to watch and because of the amount of steps involved, teams do it very differently from one to the next, whereas when we are just side-by-side going through the Rumba, it can get boring."