This is the first of a few posts by guest writer Garrett Kling about the 2013 U.S. Nationals. Kling is a budding choreographer who was a former competitive skater on the national scene.
When the announcement arrived last spring that the Yankee Polka would be the required pattern for the upcoming season's short dance, many teams became skeptical. Even Olympic Champion Scott Moir was quoted as saying deciding a theme for the program would be “a real challenge.” But if the short dance at the U.S. Championships was any indication, teams became more creative than ever in their approach this season.
The Yankee Polka, created in 1969 by 5-time ice dance champions Judy Schwomeyer and James Sladky and their coach, Ron Ludington, proved to be anything but dated as teams performed music to South American tribal dance, the can-can, Cirque du Soleil and even some Johnny Cash. The quick-footed and exuberant dance is a difficult pattern to put a theme too – particularly because of its intricacy and preciseness.
“It's just so quick,” Evan Bates said, currently sitting in second place with his partner Madison Chock. “The edges need to be accurate, and one small little misstep can result in a few missteps because the steps are so close together and the music is so close.”
Along with the polka, teams had to perform in the styles of the march, waltz, polka or a combination of the three. The teams that beautifully merged the requirements with an original theme in relation to the music found themselves at the top of the leader board.
The team that epitomized the infusion of technicality with artistic expression were 2011 world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White. In their quest for their 5th national title, the duo magically skated to music from the 19th century ballet “Giselle.” In a perfect portrayal of the title character, Davis whimsically moved across the ice with White in the essence of professional ballet dancers on stage. As the dance made its climax into the Yankee Polka, the duo seamlessly weaved the difficult pattern into the choreography.
“We were really pleased with our short dance today,” Davis said. “We have really been evolving our overall comfort on the ice, our speed, our energy since the November final.”
Bates and Chock used selections from the production “Quidam” of Cirque du Soleil. In the cirque show, a young girl named Zoe dreams of escaping the monotony of life. Their modern interpretation covered the ice surface with sharp attack that complemented the music.
Maia and Alex Shibutani, the brother and sister team currently sitting in third place, used perhaps the most original of music choices—a South American polka.
“I think the general perception of the polka is that it's Bavarian, German, American...polka is a rhythm that is found all over the world,” Alex said.
“As far as our approach, we just really wanted to challenge ourselves in doing something different for us this year,” Maia added.
As the focus shifts toward the free dance, expect to see more unique program concepts from this year's teams.