Recap: 2023 Skate America
by Matteo Morelli
Skate America kicked off the 2023/2024 Senior Grand Prix Series, with the event taking place in Allen, Texas.
The ice dance field saw World Champions Madison Chock & Evan Bates debuting their new programmes and adding another gold to their three previous gold medals won at their home Grand Prix; they were joined on the podium by Canada’s Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha in second place, and France’s Evgeniia Lopareva & Geoffrey Brissaud in third place.
Madison Chock & Evan Bates came back to competitions, entering their thirteenth year together and their fifth Skate America attendance, where they have always won apart from one silver medal.
“We had a lot to think about after accomplishing that huge goal (of becoming world champions) that we had set for ourselves many years ago and that we have worked hard towards our entire career”, Chock shared. “We wanted more, we have more to give, more creativity to share. While we were on tour we decided we wanted to compete some more on the competitive stage.”
Like last season, they decided to take the risk of debuting their new programmes at Skate America. Unlike the previous year, this time they came into the competition with a lot of confidence and already solid programmes.
“Coming off an Olympic season is always a challenge, it was a bit more of a slow start last season compared to this spring and summer when we were very motivated, and even when we were on tour we were working on our new material”, Chock said. “We had all our planning done and we are really prepared”.
The day of the rhythm dance started with a little drama for them, with Madison falling on the ice at practice while practicing one of their lifts.
“This morning I lost control of the lift at the end of our programme”, Bates said. “It was a scary moment but our coaches and the doctors were wonderful, they checked on both of us and Madi in particular”.
With their safety being assessed, the experienced team took the ice to deliver an already very strong rhythm dance on the 80s’ repertoire from iconic band Queen, which they decided to skate after watching the Bohemian Rhapsody movie whilst on tour in the summer. Madison wore a deconstructed yellow jacket dress, an ode to the famous jacket wore by Freddie Mercury in their concerts.
Their free dance is based on music from the album “The dark side of the moon” by Pink Floyd, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. This is a programme that they have been thinking about since last year, but only decided to present this year. Although it was only debuted at this event, their free dance was already rich of nuances and fine detail, alongside complex transitions and technical elements.
“We chose time and delved deeper into this concept, into the storytelling of time being a construct that we have made as humans and this narrative of trying to break free of this construct to appreciate the time that we have”, Evan explained.
In second place were Canada’s Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha. This was their third Grand Prix medal, after two bronzes won at Skate Canada and Wilson Trophy last season.
Their rhythm dance was an homage to Michael Jackson’s Thriller: the duo not only looked the part with perfect costumes that recalled the iconic music video, but also included the famous moves that the King of Pop used to do when performing.
“It is pretty easy to feel the music, a lot of amazing artists were from the 80s and it is an honour to skate on such a wonderful artist”, Lagha shared.
Their free dance was co-created with Olympic Champion Guillaume Cizeron.
“Since worlds are in Montreal, we really wanted to find something that was from Montreal. We listened to a lot of music and then had a section with Guillaume, he played different songs including the one we picked”, Lajoie shared. “We don’t like to have a specific story, we prefer to have emotions and connections and enjoy the movement”.
To complete a full Ice Academy of Montreal podium, in third place were Evgeniia Lopareva & Geoffrey Brissaud of France. They also worked with Guillaume Cizeron, who choreographed both their programmes.
Their rhythm dance to French music allowed them to achieve a personal best.
“This French artist (Mylene Farmer) is very 80s, the story telling is really interesting and we really liked this music”, Brissaud shared.
Their free dance is based on Rachmaninov music and tells the story of the celebrated composer himself.
“We chose the music with our choreographer, Guillaume”, Brissaud said. “We built a story with this and finalised it in only four days”.
“The story is about Rachmaninov, when he was about to leave Russia to go to America”, Lopareva added. “Geoffrey is Rachmaninov, and I represent all these things and thoughts that were happening to him during this moment in his life”.
USA’s Caroline Green & Michael Parsons managed to go up from firth to fourth place overall and make up for a start of the season at the Lombardia Trophy Challenger Series. They overtook Natálie Taschlerová and Filip Taschler, who had an issue with a choreo lift. The Czech siblings’ free dance is a moving programme dedicated to their father, who sadly passed away a few years ago.
In sixth place at their Grand Prix debut is the newly formed couple of Olivia Smart and Tim Dieck, representing Spain. This team brings in a lot of experience that already shows despite of having skated together for a few months only, and their free dance based on Elvis received a warm response from the audience.
Oona Brown and Gage Brown were the third American ice dance team at this event. They presented an engaging rhythm dance on music by Elton John and a free dance on the famous “All by myself” song.
Coming into the senior field after ending on the world junior podium last season were siblings Kateřina Mrázková and Daniel Mrázek of Czech Republic, and Hannah Lim and Ye Quan of Korea, who finished respectively in eighth and ninth place. With both having two Grand Prix assignments, it will be interesting to follow how their journey develops as seniors.
In last place were Australia’s Holly Harris and Jason Quan, which brought 80s’ Madonna vibes for their rhythm dance and an ocean theme for their free dance.
After Skate America, the qualification standings for the Grand Prix Final are:
15 points: Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA)
13 points: Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha (Canada)
11 points: Evgeniia Lopareva & Geoffrey Brissaud (France)
9 points: Caroline Green & Michael Parsons (USA)
7 points: Natálie Taschlerová & Filip Taschler (Czech Republic)
5 points: Olivia Smart & Tim Dieck (Spain)
Next Grand Prix
Vancouver is going to host Skate Canada, the second Grand Prix of the season. The event will include Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier’s new programmes being debuted in their home country, Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson of Great Britain with their Rocky themed free dance, Lithuania’s Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevičius which will aim to impress in view of the European Championship being hosted by their country, and a second and back-to-back Grand Prix for Oona and Gage Brown.
Skate Canada takes place from October 27-29.