Samuelson and Bates Capture Novice Ice Dancing Titleby Michelle Wojdyla, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
|Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates|
Photo by Paul Harvath
(1/10/05) — It was a good news/bad news night at the 2005 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The good news is the future of American ice dancing is bright, as evidenced by the dozen novice free dances that took place at the Memorial Coliseum Monday night. Not only was routine after routine technically difficult, the showmanship rivaled many of the senior level dancers. Ann Arbor's Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates led the way with an energetic free dance to capture gold.
The bad news, however, came way of Blake Rosenthal (SC of Wilmington), who took a nasty fall near the end of her routine with partner Calvin Taylor (SC of Wilmington), and tangled blades resulted in a wound to her left lower thigh/upper knee area.
“There was kind of a fall and just a mix up of feet,” Taylor said. “I can't really pinpoint what happened. It's just a freak accident.”
Rosenthal received six stitches on-site at the arena and was in good spirits.
“It's not really that bad, actually,” Rosenthal said. “It really doesn't hurt that much. It's just kind of like shock.”
Despite the fall, Rosenthal and Taylor placed third in the free and third overall to their program “Mask of Zorro.” She was able to use crutches to make her way to the podium for the medal ceremony.
From the opening claps of the music in their free dance, it was all about attitude. Perfect costumes captured the passion of the theme, and the ruffle of her dress and the fringe on his pants flew from the speed they generated. Lifts that included an inverted split with a change of position were an example of the difficulty the team attempted.
At the completion of the dance, Taylor carried Rosenthal off. Because blood trailed across the ice to the rink exit, referee Charles Cyr came onto the ice for an inspection and ordered a resurface. This created an approximately 20 minute delay before the last skaters of the evening, Kaitlyn Weaver (Charter Oak FSC) and Charles Clavey (Texas Gulf Coast FSC), were able to perform.
“I think it's one of those situations where you never really know what's going to happen,” said Mathew Gates, who coaches Weaver and Clavey along with Eve Chalom, “so you deal with it the best way that you can. We've taught them to not panic about those sorts of things. They were well in control of it. We weren't worried. They went out and did what we expected them to do.”
“Right away I felt for Blake,” Clavey added. “We've been competing against each other for a long time. But then I thought, this has to be about us. We have to go out there and we have jobs to do.”
Their free dance, to music from the movie “Amelie,” has a strong emotional impact on the duo.
“Even though it's not a direct correlation between our steps on the plotline,” Clavey explained, “it's kind of quirky and a little unexpected. The accents are slightly on the offbeat. It keeps you engaged.”
The program opens with a difficult spin that has Weaver's leg around Clavey's neck. The intricacies in the program were subtle, but showed abilities worthy of their silver medal. Changes of arm positions, weaving footwork, and a twizzle sequence were among the elements in this nuanced free dance.
“During the program, I really experienced it as a series of events, the innate beauty of the program” Clavey said. “I was actually quite sad when it was over. I felt like I was really in it, and it was so wonderful. I never felt that good in my entire life.”
“I feel the same way,” Weaver said. “It was a great program for us. We went out there. We felt everything. We did our job and now we have something to show for it.”
The brightest stars of the night and winners of the gold medal were Samuelson and Bates, who received first-place honors from all nine judges. From their opening smiles—and it's hard not to be taken in by Bates' dimples—they had the energy level through the roof. Their Ricky Martin free dance has more changes of position and hand holds than seem possible for young skaters to pull off, but these two did, and more.
When every move is a highlight, it's difficult to pick which part of the program was most memorable. A hydroblading/Biellmann or a spread eagle lift with a change of edge? A spin so well-centered it comes close to blurring? A Besti squat/backbend that has no name and defies the law of gravity? Welcome to the fastest two and a half minutes to hit novice dance.
“Our coaches, (Iouri Tchessnitchenko and Iaroslava Netchaeva) always have us trying new moves and stretches and things to add to our exercises at home,” Bates said. “It's good practice and we get experience at being flexible.”
Bates explained that their coaches chose their Ricky Martin theme free dance.
“At the beginning of the year they gave us the music and said ‘this is a program we think you can perform well at nationals.' And we did! They were right,” Bates said.
“We skated really well,” Samuelson said. “The program itself is fun to skate to. It's really energetic. It gave us a good chance to present. It also prepares us for next year. The junior OD is a Latin dance.”
Part of the perks of being the U.S. champion is an invitation to perform in Sunday's exhibition. Bates isn't predicting they will make ABC television's coverage, however.
“I watched it last year and they didn't show novice dance,” he lamented.
Perhaps this year will be different.