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'DWTS' veteran gives his take on top ice dancers

Byalikov amazed by Davis, White's choreography, Bobrova's flexibility

Henry Byalikov is blown away by Meryl Davis and Charlie White's expressiveness.
Henry Byalikov is blown away by Meryl Davis and Charlie White's expressiveness. (Getty Images)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(02/14/2013) - Although we don't hear it much anymore, ice dance has been described as an interpretation of ballroom dancing on ice. As such, each year I ask a ballroom/Latin dancer to view several ice dance performances and give his or her thoughts from a dance perspective.

This year, I turned to Henry Byalikov (www.henrybyalikov.com), a member of the troupe on Dancing with the Stars that I also saw in the stage show Burn the Floor several years ago (related link: "Burn the Floor" inspires ice dancers). After viewing the four video links I provided (to each team's 2012-13 free dance), he sent me an analysis of each team, which I will share with you in two parts.

Although Byalikov has no skating experience, he has long admired the sport.

"Technical mastery is clearly evident in all of the couples I will critique, so I will only critique from my standpoint as a conversant dancer and not as a figure skater," he said. "Technical mastery is only a means, a vehicle, to convey artistry and emotional content to its fullest possible extent. What I'm always striving for is the intangible quality that translates technical mastery into art."

It is my hope that Byalikov's words will give you a fresh perspective when you watch the dance competition at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario.

First up, reigning five-time U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, followed by European champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Russia.

MERYL DAVIS and CHARLIE WHITE
Free dance: Music from Notre-Dame de Paris by Riccardo Cocciante and Luc Plamondon

This is one of the rare times that I have watched such an inspired, emotionally driven performance by a skating duo. In particular, I was drawn to the Baryshnikov-esque passion exhibited authentically, throughout the performance, in different shades and colors, by Charlie. He comes across seamless and incredibly fluid, and I'm extremely impressed with his performance.

In my opinion, passion is the most important element in any performance art, and it's a very difficult tightrope walk to achieve that balance between technical and emotional prowess. Nevertheless, this couple certainly delivers in those aspects.

The connection between them is strong and expressive, while maintaining enough subtlety to perform the more sensitive moments of the routine. From the opening move to the closing, their portrayal of opposition, and yet desire for one another, was a highlight of this performance for me.

Looking into the future, from my perspective, I would be focusing on Meryl and Charlie's extensions and posture.

For the most part, I applaud the seamlessness of all the transitions, in and out of lifts executed in this routine. Charlie certainly allows Meryl to be as expressive and joyful in this performance, owing to his faultless partnering technique. However, for me there were moments within the routine that I felt extensions through the legs and upper torso could have been executed a little more thoroughly.

Specifically, one lift, three quarters of the way through the routine, stuck out to me. The gentleman is in a strong second position plié and the lady is balancing in a sustained layout position. I would like to see the lady's left leg extension articulated more so that it achieves a straight line and finishes off the picture of what was otherwise an impressive-looking lift.

Overall, this couple has created a true piece of art in their performance, and kudos must be given to the choreographer. The choreography is beautiful and flows smoothly and logically from one move to the next, with enough dynamism so that the audience/judges are not lost in all the intricacy that partnered movement can bring.

EKATERINA BOBROVA and DMITRI SOLOVIEV
Free dance: "Man with a Harmonica" from the Once Upon a Time in the West soundtrack by Ennio Morricone

An expressive image to start and end with, she breathes life into her creation only to have her life taken away by the very thing she conceived. This was a brilliant story and piece of choreography, both coming together seamlessly to deliver the perfect platform for art.

The first major lift was executed flawlessly, with a spectacular dismount emphasizing Ekaterina's stunning flexibility. I feel this routine highlighted Ekaterina's expressive ability, exceptional flexibility and charisma.

Dmitri demonstrates his partnering ability strongly and his expression, although at times his posture and arms may benefit from a balletic approach to convey more of a finished look to his lines and movements.

Since they perform pseudo pirouettes en retire or sur le cou de pied positions quite often, they should try to match each other, as well as improve the visual appeal of the turn, by choosing the same level at which to connect the free leg to the standing leg, i.e. at the knee or at the ankle, a similar position they utilize before the performance has even started.

Midway through the routine, there is a supported lift where Dmitri holds Ekaterina's leg and she performs a strong balletic cambre. If she were to connect the free leg to the supported one, the image would be significantly enhanced, rather than having the one suspended and dangling.

Overall, this routine was perfect for this couple, even though it seemed slightly immature in terms of the couple's connection with one another and the audience. Nonetheless, I loved the idea, choreography and delivery.