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Chock and Bates, Hubbell and Donohue claim silver, bronze BY LYNN RUTHERFORD

In world-class ice dance, every step,

musical note and sequin is scrutinized, again and again. Any overlooked detail may make the difference between gold and silver. Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani,

and Madison Chock and Evan Bates ar- rived in Kansas City ready for a beautiful battle. Both teams took advantage of the six-week interval between the Grand Prix Final in Marseilles, France, and the U.S. Championships to enhance their already polished programs. Seeking a fuller sound for their “Evolu-

tion” free dance, the Shibutanis (SC of New York), reigning World silver medalists and winners of the bronze medal in Marseilles, traveled to Los Angeles to work with Ryan “Ryanimay” Conferido, the dancer and mu- sician who also created their short dance mash-up of Frank Sinatra and Jay Z. “We added instrumentation to the

track and created a more full sound to help us power through the second half of the program and lead to a stronger ending,” Alex said. “We knew our skating had gotten

stronger throughout the season,” Maia said. “We wanted our music to match the package.” After placing sixth in Marseilles,

Chock (All Year FSC) and Bates (Ann Arbor FSC), who won World bronze last season, worked with coach Igor Shpilband to add more layers to their free dance, cho- reographed by 1984 Olympic champion Christopher Dean to David Bowie and Queen’s rock classic “Under Pressure.” They sported colorful purple costumes, replac- ing the all-black attire in Marseilles. “The program needed to breathe

more,” Bates said. “We added more of a slow section, some more tender moments, and more romantic moments to the story. We amped up the drama, if you will.” There was plenty of drama in Kansas

City. In the end, the Shibutanis came out on top by a point — 1.01, to be exact — and won their second straight U.S. title, giving

24 MARCH 2017

(l-r) Madison Chock/Evan Bates, Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani, Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue, Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit

them seven U.S. medals, one for each sea- son they have competed as seniors. A record-breaking score for their

“That’s Life” blues and hip-hop short dance led the siblings to victory. From the open- ing Midnight Blues section, to the closing rotational lift, their movements were fast and furious, yet smoothly controlled. Four of their five elements gained Level 4s, and their 82.42 points surpassed the previous standard set by Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White. “I didn’t know it was a record (score), but as far as performance, it was our stron- gest short dance so far this season,” Maia said.

Marina Zoueva, who coaches the Shibutanis in Canton, Michigan, credited work done after the Grand Prix Final. “We got some comments (from judg-

es),” she said. “We made some changes [linking] the first and second parts, and some little changes to transitions. Now, the score and everything else is better.” Chock and Bates’ blues and hip-hop routine, choreographed by Rohene Ward

to a medley of “Bad to the Bone” and “Up- town Funk,” was a bit harder-edged than the Shibutanis’ lighthearted effort, and was also clean, speedy and free. It, too, gained four Level 4 elements, but the judges pre- ferred the Shibutanis’ performance. Their 79.96 points put them nearly two-and-a- half points behind entering the free dance. “We drilled the program over and over again, pushing past the point of comfort,” Ward said. “They’re taking on the charac- ters and really engraining this kind of style, pushing themselves as artists.” The free dances are a study in con-

trasts. The Shibutanis take an almost min- imalist approach to “Evolution,” the first half of which is set to Estonian composer Arvo Pärt ‘s “Spiegel im Spiegel” (“Mirror in the Mirror”), the second half to an original composition arranged by Alex and Con- ferido. Compelling in its pristine lines and superb execution, it earned 117.63 points, including a one-point deduction for an extended stationary lift. That gave them a 200.05-point total, just .14 under the re- cord held by Davis and White.


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