LONDON, Ont. – It was nice that the judges gave Meryl Davis and Charlie White a world-record score for their short dance Thursday night. After all, this is a competition, so both score and placement are the ultimate measure of success, no matter that figure skaters must learn to cope with the vagaries of judging in the sport.
This time, the score was a fitting measure of just how wondrous a performance the U.S. ice dancers had given at the World Championships.
But you didn’t need numbers to know that.
“This time,” White said, “it was one of those dream skates.”
Skating to excerpts from the ballet “Giselle,” mixing march, waltz and polka, the five-time U.S. champions were a pure delight of entertainment and a wonder of unison, whether on the pirouettes called twizzles or the no-touch step sequence.
To that they added whimsical footwork right out of soft shoe and chorus line, creating a 2 minute-and-50-second masterwork, drawing a roaring ovation.
“A marvel on ice,” said a commentator on Italian TV. “Fantasic. No imperfection. No imprecision. Skating at its best on the technical, interpretive and pure skating levels.”
Davis and White, reigning world and Olympic silver medalists, thoroughly outclassed their usually brilliant Canadian rivals, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the reigning world and Olympic champions. Virtue lurched briefly on a twizzle, Moir made a mistake on the sequence, and he later whined about scores that have them distressingly far behind – 77.12 to 73.87 - going into Saturday’s free dance.
“We don’t care about what the 11 people (judges) think,” Moir said. “It’s more about the 10,000 sitting behind them.”
That was both rationalization and exaggeration, since the Budweiser Gardens holds just 7,000 for this event, and it wasn’t full.
“We’re further behind than we would like to be,” Virtue said.
“That’s a pretty large gap,” Moir agreed. “(But) it’s not like it’s impossible.”
For Davis and White, part-time students at the University of Michigan, this short dance was a culmination of efforts over 15 years of skating together, much of it under the guidance of coach-choreographer Marina Zoueva.
“There are a handful of programs that you think back to, and you still get the tingle and you still get giddy about,” Davis said. “Those are the programs we strive for. The programs that make us feel good three, five years down the line.
“Whether you are an athlete or a performer – and in ice dance, we happen to be both –that is probably what most people are striving for.”
The first program that gave them the feeling was the free dance at the 2009 worlds. Then there were the free dances at the 2010 Olympics and 2011 worlds, especially since the latter made them the only U.S. team to win a world title in dance.
“To get the reception we did for the very first time at that (2009) world championships was a feeling we had never realized before but we have been chasing ever since,” Davis said.
They got it again Thursday, with impressive footwork at speeds that reached breakneck, with an eye-catching lift at the end, with a sense of purpose in every movement.
“We feel different than we did two years ago, in a good way,” White said. “Our confidence is as high as it has ever been. Our ability to grow, through the years and especially this year - we sort of impressed ourselves. There is a certain maturity that comes along with the experiences we have had.”
Their lead is comfortable, but the free dance remains. This is, after all, ice dance, where judging has been notorious for years. The folks in the arena Saturday won’t be pleased if their homies – Virtue and Moir are both from the London area – don’t win.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun