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Zoueva, top U.S. teams continue on in Canton

Davis and White, Shibutanis optimistic about new season at Arctic Edge

Maurizio Margaglio, who received this glare from  Barbara Fusar-Poli at the 2006 Olympics, now lends a softer eye to the Canton skaters.
Maurizio Margaglio, who received this glare from Barbara Fusar-Poli at the 2006 Olympics, now lends a softer eye to the Canton skaters. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany and Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(08/14/2012) - If you're looking for a little bit of Italy the next time you're in the Michigan area, try ducking into the ice arenas.

Pasquale Camerlengo and Massimo Scali reign supreme at Detroit Skating Club, where Camerlengo's group -- also including his wife, Anjelika Krylova; Natalia Annenko-Deller; and Liz Punsalan -- train a stable of top ice dance teams. Drive about 30 miles to Novi, and you might catch Barbara Fusar-Poli helping Igor Shpilband's couples master their footwork. And at Canton's Arctic Edge, Fusar-Poli's former partner, Maurizio Margaglio, has been schooling Marina Zoueva's teams in the Yankee Polka, the required pattern in this season's short dance.

"The biggest challenge for the teams is the compulsories (pattern dances), and I called Maurizio because he has great knowledge of compulsories and has done a lot of ISU seminars," Zoueva said. "He can come only from time to time, because he also has a contract with the Finnish skating federation."

Margaglio, the 2001 world ice dance champion with Fusar-Poli, is director of the Finnish ice dance program and an ISU technical specialist. He came to Canton for several weeks in July, bringing two Finnish ice dance teams with him, and Zoueva said he will return soon.

"Working on the Yankee Polka with Maurizio has been amazing," said Maia Shibutani, the U.S. ice dance silver medalist with her brother Alex. "He is so knowledgeable about all of the technical aspects of compulsories. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious.

"During our lessons with him, he is on the ice illustrating each point with the both of us. Even though we're racing around the rink every minute of our lesson, we can't help but have a smile on our faces."

Margaglio comes by his knowledge of the dance honestly. During their long career, he and Fusar-Poli competed the Yankee Polka several times, including at the 2000 European Championships, where they placed second to Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat.

The Italian's experience and technical expertise are welcome additions to the Arctic Edge, where the Shibutanis, four-time U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and Canadian Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are hard at work preparing for the new season.

When Zoueva and Shpilband, coaching partners for a decade, parted ways earlier this summer, the three teams elected to stay in Canton with Zoueva and Johnny Johns, who works with them on lifts and spins.

In addition to Margaglio, Oleg Epstein, the Chicago-based choreographer and coach, is working on a near full-time basis in Canton, helping Zoueva plan programs and elements. While he will return to Chicago on occasion, some of his students, including U.S. junior champion Gracie Gold, will visit him in Canton.

"He is great," White said. "We like the way he approaches things, and he has a lot of good ideas. We are working hard to ensure that we have optimal levels, especially in our pattern dance. Oleg and Maurizio are very helpful with the technical aspect of our skating."

"We are really enjoying working with both Oleg and Maurizio," Davis said. "Each has a different way of looking at what we're doing on the ice. I think that their different styles of skating and coaching complement one another nicely."

Zoueva points to the showing of another of her U.S. couples, Alissandra Aronow and Collin Brubaker, at the recent Lake Placid Ice Dance Competition as proof that her team's efforts are working well.

"They got very good levels for the [Yankee Polka] so early in the season," she said. "This shows I am on the right track technically."

Concerning Davis and White's programs, Zoueva stayed mum. She prefers to wait until after U.S. Figure Skating's Champs Camp later this month to discuss program specifics.

"We hope that this year, our first shot at the music is successful," Zoueva said. "Last year, [after feedback at Champs Camp], we had to change it [from La Strada] but found something great with Die Fledermaus."

Like Davis and White, the Shibutanis are excited about the new coaching team.

"We decided to stay in Canton mainly because we like to train with the world's two best dance teams on the same ice," Alex said. "They motivate us to become stronger every day, and every day is a competition for us. We love our training environment -- both Oleg and Maurizio have brought a completely new energy into the rink. Both of them are extremely positive and encouraging."

"We are very thankful to Igor, and we experienced a lot of positive things with him," Maia said. "He was always there for us, and we're still on good terms."

The 2011 world bronze medalists, who placed eighth at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships, prefer not to discuss their new programs, but Alex stressed that this season they will project an even stronger presence.

"We want to continue to mature as skaters, and I gained 10 pounds recently, which was planned," he said. "We are happy with our overall [2011-12] season, especially with winning a Grand Prix event for the first time and qualifying for the Final. Only worlds was not as good as we had hoped, but we learned a lot from that competition."

Like their American training partners, the Canadians are also absorbing Margaglio's polka prowess.

"We were still on vacation when we heard of the split," Virtue said. "We were very sad; it was not an ideal situation for us. We had a great eight years with both of them. Our working relationship with them was fantastic.

"Marina has done a good thing bringing in other coaches. We've known Oleg for a while and we like working with him; he has great energy and a critical eye about what looks good. When Maurizio is here, we mainly work with him on the Polka. It's one of the toughest compulsory dances because it requires high speed, and the key features for the levels are very difficult to obtain."

Zoueva also refused to confirm Virtue and Moir's music choices, saying only, "This season, I want to show the dramatic qualities of Tessa and Scott more."

Reporter's notebook: Aronow and Brubaker placed third in their short dance group and fifth in their free dance group in Lake Placid with programs that were choreographed while Shpilband was still at the Arctic Edge.

"The top teams here are a great inspiration for us; therefore, we decided to stay in Canton," Brubaker said.

"Lake Placid was a good experience for us, because it was our first competition after practicing almost a year together," Aronow said. "We're happy with what we did. We skate to a French polka and a French waltz in the short dance and a Tango medley in the free. Our next competition will be in Thornhill in Canada, and then probably Pikes Peak in Colorado in the fall."

2011 Italian champions Federica Bernardi and Christopher Mior also competed in Lake Placid, placing fifth in their short dance group and fourth in their free dance group. They are training in Canton this summer.