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Weaver and Poje go modern, take new direction

Duo enlists acclaimed contemporary dancer to give free dance authenticity

Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje plan to build on their fourth-place finish at worlds.
Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje plan to build on their fourth-place finish at worlds. (Getty Images)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(08/16/2012) - Throughout the 2011-12 season, Canadian ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje dazzled audiences and the judges with their passionate free dance to the song, "Je Suis Malade." After earning silver medals at three Grand Prix events and rising to fourth at the world championships, the Canadian silver medalists were faced with the challenge of equaling that program's impact without repeating its style.

"Coming off of last year, of course we were excited that that program was so well received, understood and appreciated. Then we wanted to take [our skating] to a new level. It's a very different style," Weaver said.

"We wanted to change and push ourselves, and not just leave ourselves in one role that we're good at," Poje said. "We want to make ourselves dynamic so that we can show that we're multifaceted with our skills and show that we can do more than one variety of programs."

The duo and coach Pasquale Camerlengo decided to create a free dance based on contemporary dance. He asked Weaver to find a contemporary dancer to help them fully understand the style and assist with choreography.

Weaver reached out to contemporary dancer Allison Holker, a popular competitor on season two (2006) of So You Think You Can Dance who returned to the show as an all-star in season seven. Holker has also been gaining renown as a choreographer, including choreographing a piece for Dancing with the Stars earlier this year. She came to Detroit for four days in late July.

"We knew what we wanted to achieve with our program and we needed help from a true contemporary dancer, because we wanted to try to make it more authentic to their movements and not have it look like 'skating contemporary,'" Poje said.

Unlike the usual sequence -- where the concept grows out of the music -- they had the concept first and then looked for music that fit it. After much discussion between Weaver, Poje and Camerlengo, the music was chosen before Holker came to Detroit to work with them. They selected a piece from LXD, The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, a web series about two groups of rival dancers, which Weaver described as a "classic modern fusion."

Weaver said she can't remember any ice dance team performing a program that resembled a contemporary dance one would see performed by dancers on stage. With the Olympic Winter Games less than two years away, they feel it's not only crucial to continue their upward momentum, but also to show the judges that they are capable of performing in diverse styles.

To get the creative process going, Weaver and Poje got on the ice and skated for Holker so she could see how they moved. Then they went to the dance room so she could see how they danced on the floor.

"We spent many hours on the ice trying to fool around with ideas that she had in her brain, to see if they could translate on the ice or what translated better on the ice," Poje said. "Played around for a while to build the concept that we were going for."

"It was so much fun to work with her because she was totally uninhibited," Weaver said. "We had a creation day where we just made so many new moves, lifts and transitions. Then the next day we started to place the things in the program and explain to her about the elements and the rules. The rules were very frustrating for her to understand, but she had such a great attitude and energy. It challenged her, and she thrives with a challenge. It was so much fun for us to be carried on her ride."

At times, Weaver and Poje worked alone with Holker. Then Camerlengo would come onto the ice to ensure that the elements had proper entrances and exits as well as assisting with the translation of some of Holker's concepts to the ice.

Weaver and Poje revealed that the concept involves a sculptor and his work of art. They will unveil it at Skate Canada's training camp in September, and after receiving feedback and critique, they will meet again with Holker to fine tune details. They'll debut the program at Skate America, and they hope Holker will be there to see it.

"There's a lot of different movement and a lot of things that break the general skating way of thinking," Weaver said. "We're working very hard on and off the ice to be able to push ourselves to achieve that."

Next week, we'll check in with Holker and learn her take on the creative process and her lifelong connections to skating.