Pratt and Gilles Lead Junior Dance at State Farm U.S. Championshipsby Michelle Wojdyla, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
|Trina Pratt and Todd Gilles|
Photo by Paul Harvath
(1/10/05) The 2005 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championship junior ice dancing competition got under way with the compulsory dance Monday evening at the Memorial Coliseum. The two rhythms chosen were the Starlight Waltz and the Cha Cha Congelado, providing the chance for the skaters to show their versatility and ability. Each dance is worth 10 percent of the final result.
Trina Pratt & Todd Gilles (Broadmoor SC) were the final skaters and put an exclamation point on their performance with marks no lower than 5.0 and as high as 5.3 with a string of first-place ordinals in the cha cha. According to the ISU description, this dance is designed to introduce dancers to a Latin American rhythm at an early stage of development and help them to appreciate rhythm not only with their feet, but also with their bodies. The steps are structured in places so as to portray a feeling of "1,2 cha-cha-cha. Pratt and Gilles began the dance with a spunky introduction that made full use of Pratt's fringe skirt. This opening set the tone for a dance that was strong and secure while being entertaining.
When we went on our international (to Budapest) that was our dance, Pratt said. I got to see the different varieties, different hand movements. I saw what I liked and picked the best ones to go with my cha cha.
Pratt and Gilles took first in the Starlight Waltz as well, with five first-place ordinals. Their dance was very secure and powerful. It had an almost jubilant quality, more playful than romantic. The duo was not surprised that they had done well.
It's nationals, Gilles said. We usually skate up to it.
The couple's success at U.S. Championships in the past however, doesn't mean they feel it is easy.
I think it's always nerve wracking, Gilles said. We just keep telling ourselves that we've done it so many times, and not to be nervous.
I think we just wanted to step it up, Pratt added. I feel like when people watch us, they feel our power and presence. We feel special and I think that people get that.
As is not uncommon in the compulsory dance portion of a competition, there is a tie for second, with three skaters representing the Stars FSC of Texas sharing the spot. Kimmerly Lauten & Augie Hill placed second in the waltz and third in the cha cha. Caitlin Mallory (St. Moritz ISC) and Brent Holdburg reversed this. In fact, Lauten and Hill have Mallory and Holdburg to thank, as Lauten and Hill were behind Meghan McCullough (SC of Boston) and Joel Dear (Indiana World Skating Academy) until Mallory and Holdburg's scores flip-flopped the standings.
I thought if we skated well we could end up in second place, Holdburg said.
However, Mallory is just happy to be through with the compulsories and be in a good position going into the original dance.
We've always thought of them as our weakest, Mallory said.
The couple is not sad that only one compulsory is needed on the international circuit. Asked if they wished it could be two, Holdburg was adamant.
No way! he said. We're fine with one.
It is somewhat surprising to hear they do not like the dances, as Mallory and Holdburg have a lovely waltz. Their extension is exquisite, her toes pointed like a ballerina. They float over the ice with smooth flow complementing their speed. The cha cha is a dance they prefer, and their unison and speed is a highlight.
Lauten and Hill had a scary warmup for the starlight when Hill went crashing into fellow Stars FSC members Stephanie Segien and Jay Lilly, sending Lilly flying. He hit the ice hard to an audible gasp from the audience, but he jumped up quickly.
We just got too close, Lauten said.
We train with (them) in Plano, Hill said, "so we're used to getting in each other's way. It didn't rattle us too much.
Lilly was not available for comment, as he and his partner skipped the draw to return to the hotel. Their coach, Pierre Panayi, was reached by phone.
I don't think the collision affected him, Panayi said. He went and checked out OK.
Segien and Lilly placed 12th in both dances.
Lauten and Hill placed second in the waltz with ordinals from first to fifth. Hill partners Lauten well, guiding her around the turns of the dance. The lack of extension and toe point didn't give them the elegant look of Mallory and Holdburg, but they looked confident on the ice. Their cha cha was according to the ISU description in that their upper bodies performed as much as their lower. Their leg lines matched better than in the waltz and they seemed to be enjoying themselves.
The original dance takes place Tuesday at the Rose Garden.