The 2021 Autumn Classic International was held from September 16th to 18th in Pierrefonds, Quebec as part of the ISU challenger series. Here are some of the highlights from what the top 5 ice dance team said about their new programs and their first ISU competition of the season.
GOLD: Piper Gilles / Paul Poirier
Rhythm Dance: Elton John Medley
Piper: We are very pleased with the skate today. It’s always hard to come out for the first event and try not to overdo it. We skated very sensibly where we were in the season. (The free dance) is a totally different take. It’s a little bit calmer.
Paul: We’ve been talking about this since the last Olympics. Our biggest goal is to medal at this Olympics. Everything this season is a stepping stone towards the Olympics. We want to be setting ourselves up well and building our confidence. Every competition is an opportunity to do that and to show the judges that we are ready, that we are prepared, and that the spot (on the podium) is for us.
(About the costumes)
Paul: Peter DeFreitas designed both of our costumes this year. These costumes are inspired by what Elton would have worn during concerts and performances. We really want to show his exuberance, energy, and joy performing in these costumes. We weren’t sure about the color, so we had them sketch out in pretty much every color under the sun. Piper found this fabric, and these costumes were decorated and jeweled by Bobby & Sally Ackbarali. This is a group effort amongst all of us. The costumes turned out even better than we expected, and they made the right statement.
Free Dance: Long and Winding Road by Paul McCartney, arranged by Govardo
Paul: We are very pleased with how both programs went. We skated the free dance again very sensibly and didn’t force things or try to push for the perfect Olympic skate. There are still several months for us to develop the program and get everything sharper. This is a very strong showing for us. We are both very excited to get home and keep improving.
Piper: We made some changes about two weeks ago, so some of the elements are still new to us. We want to continue to grow those [elements] and make sure they fit in the program really seamlessly. We want to be able to tell the story more. We need to drill these programs so that our bodies know exactly what we can do, and we can emote and connect a bit more.
SILVER: Olivia Smart / Adrian Diaz
Rhythm Dance: Proud Mary by Tina Turner
Olivia: We did (Proud Mary by Tina Turner) as a short dance our first year together when (the rhythms) were also blues and hip-hop. We loved the program. When looking for music this year for the same style, we kept getting drawn back to this piece of music we used, and we still are really connected to it. We didn’t find anything better that we knew we could perform really well to or vibe with. It’s really cool to do it the second time around with a whole different technique of skating and improvement in our connection together. It’s a cool transformation for us and hopefully for (the audience) to watch too.
Adrian: We tried other music but kept playing this song to practice the blues (pattern). At some point, the coaches said, “why not? Let’s do that one again.” We both love this song, so we don’t get tired of listening to it.
(About getting back to competition after almost two years)
Adrian: This is amazing. We are really happy we can perform again, and that’s one of my favorite parts of skating. The past two years have been tough mentally and physically. This summer, we were very excited when we saw that competitions were not canceled and things were going back to normal. We are going to get the chance to travel again and participate in more events.
Olivia: In practice, at some point this morning or yesterday, we just looked at each other and said, “we are back.” It’s been so long. A lot of teams went to worlds this year, but we didn’t get the chance. It’s fantastic to put costumes and makeup on, have your names presented, and perform.
(About selection criteria for Olympics and Worlds)
Olivia: The end decision is that both Spanish teams will be attending three competitions: Finlandia Trophy in three weeks, Nationals in December, and European Championships in January. Whoever has the highest combined total of all three competitions goes to the Olympics and World Championships.
Free Dance: The Mask of Zorro
Adrian: We are very happy with how we skated, how we performed, and with the scores we got. There are a few things that needed work, and that’s what we are going to do next week, but in general, we are pretty happy.
(About creating their opening combination lift)
Adrian: After our online competition last season, we started playing with the lifts that we had before and combining them. The stationery lift was the opening of our Clown program two seasons ago.
Olivia: We adjusted (the lift) to make it fit the style of this program. I had the idea to turn it into a combo lift to start the program with our biggest element.
Adrian: Musically, we thought a rotational lift would be the best there, and it’s a fun lift to do.
Olivia: Fun fact on the first part of the combination lift: My dress is silk, and Adrian’s gloves are a little bit slippery, so we had to do that lift a couple of times in costumes this week, as he will be holding me and I will sometimes be slipping. Those little things you don’t always think about when you plan costumes.
Adrian: I’m going to fix these gloves by putting something on them.
BRONZE: Caroline Green / Michael Parsons
Rhythm Dance: The Knowledge + Rhythm Nation by Janet Jackson & My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It) by En Vogue
Michael: We are really pleased with how we skated today. The score is a lot closer to what we are aiming for than the last competition. There is still a lot to improve on, but this is a strong skate for us, and we are very happy about it.
Caroline: This is our second event, and [we] definitely felt a lot more comfortable. We got some of the first-event jitters out of the way and [had a] much better performance this time around.
Caroline: It’s only our third year together, but it feels like we’ve been skating together a lot longer than we have. (We’ve been working on) our unison, cleanliness of edge, and performance quality.
Michael: We are still a new team. Especially this off-season, we really worked on the emotional base of our skating and creating genuine programs that show us on the ice. We put more of ourselves into these programs than ever before, and we are both really proud of them. Because we are so involved, we can really see where we want these programs to be. This is a great step towards that direction, but we can do a lot better too.
Free Dance: Ezio Bosso Medley
Michael: [We are] really happy with our skate. This is the second competition of the season, and we made progress in both programs, which is the goal. We are well on our way to where we want to be this season. We just have to keep skating like that and keep making little improvements.
Michael: Nab that Olympic spot; that’s our goal.
(About Program Choreography)
Caroline: The whole program takes a lot of inspiration from Martha Graham’s work and her choreography, which is incredible. The fact that we get to take that onto the ice is really special and rewarding.
Michael: We want to make a program that no one has ever seen before and [nobody] else could do. We are trying to tell a story and control the atmosphere just with our movements. It’s coming along.
Caroline: An asset in our team is our creativity, on our own and especially with each other, as we have grown and developed over our partnership. It’s a collaborative process between us and our coaches. We will start trying out some things, and they will direct us to where we want to go in terms of program construction. These programs really feel like us and our own product. Getting the feedback that we have gotten has been really exciting.
Michael: We are both creative people, and we drew on our work off the ice with music and dance. We really try to put ourselves into a program that we can tell ourselves. Our coaches did a great job giving us the framework to do that. This program is only going to grow from here as we grow,
Michael: (This program) is more of an abstract story [up for] interpretation. What (the audience) sees, we hope they like.
Caroline: Since it’s very simplistic, it has something that everyone can relate to, the harmony and dissidence of any relationship. It’s been great to bring that onto the ice and create a final product everyone can enjoy.
Michael: Our goal is to have (the audience) breathe with us.
FOURTH: Marjorie Lajoie / Zachary Lagha
Rhythm Dance: Funk: Funkytown by Lipps, Inc.
Blues: Super Solid Soul Vehicle by Tom McGuire & the Bassholes
Disco: Far From Over by Frank Stallone
Zachary: [Our goal] is to improve the skating and the posture. In terms of results, we don’t have any particular goals.
Marjorie: We prefer to have personal goals and skating goals.
Marjorie: We were looking for music (for the rhythm dance) and couldn’t find the perfect mix. Zach came up with this idea a little bit as a joke, but (we found) that it is actually super good. That’s why we chose this music.
(About World Champions Debut)
Zachary: At World Championships, we understood the gap between the good skaters and the top skaters, and it made a difference in our offseason. We worked a lot on our skating skills. Instead of going into competitions and putting in a huge amount of physical effort, we try to improve our technique. If our technique is [sound], we don’t have to [use as much force].
Marjorie: We also learned that we could perform well even though we are really stressed. Worlds was one of the most stressful competitions for us, and we still did pretty well.
Free Dance: Rio Soundtrack by John Powell
Zachary: We are really happy with the free dance; we didn’t hold back. There are still a lot of work to do with the [rhythm dance], so that’s what we are going to focus on,
(About changes to the free dance)
Marjorie: During the off-season, we really worked on our skating skills. Last year, there wasn’t a big slow part (in the music), and this year we did a longer slow part to show what we have been working on.
Zachary: The choreography last year was good, but it was really fast and [had] a lot of little steps. That was a good strategy for us last year, but now we needed a change.
FIFTH: Carolane Soucisse / Shane Firus
Rhythm Dance: Blues: What’s Love Got To Do With This by Tina Turner
Enough Is Enough by Barbara Streisand and Donna Summers
Shane: This year, we are going with the mindset of building consistency and keeping doing clean skates at every competition. Today was a great start to the season.
Carolane: We are really happy that we get to do all these events (Finlandia Trophy, Skate America, and the new Grand Prix in Italy to replace Cup of China). The more we [ompete], the more we can increase consistency.
Shane: We’d love to be on the Olympic team, but for us, we are just going one competition at a time and trying to build momentum and consistency.
Free Dance: Hier Encore & La Boheme (Instrumental) by Charles Aznavour
Carolane: (Since training with Carol Lane), our biggest improvement is our confidence. Carol really changed our way of training, our way of approaching every single day and every single competition. That really helped us use all the potential we already had, but we weren’t able to get there.
Shane: Also having vehicles that showcase our skating abilities. Having the time to do things as opposed to doing too much.