Champions to perform at DSC
By Jo-Ann Barnas
Free Press Sports Writer
The event will serve as the club's send-off for its team of qualifiers for next month's nationals in Spokane, Wash.
Defending U.S. ladies gold medalist Alissa Czisny, men's champ Jeremy Abbott and ice dance gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White will perform in the show.
The revue starts at 6 p.m. Call 248-332-3000 (ext. 102) for tickets. General admission seats are $12, $22 for center ice.
The Detroit SC is located at 888 Denison Court in Bloomfield Hills.
Plymouth Canton Sports News - Read Full Story Here
BY ED WRIGHT
Dec. 26, 2009, 7 p.m.
You may have executed a double-take in their direction while they were practicing their unique talents at Canton's Arctic Edge ice arena, thinking to yourself, "Wow, they're good!", not knowing how good they really are.
You may have been in the company of four of the most prolific ice dancers in the world without even realizing it -- because if you live in Plymouth or Canton, Meryl Davis, Charlie White, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir train in your own back yard, so to speak."
Belbin and Agosto have since moved on to train in Aston, Pa., but their departure hasn't left a void.
With the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C. less than two months away, the Davis-White, Virtue-Moir teams are ranked No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the world, so it wouldn't be a huge surprise if the training partners shared space on the medal stand on Feb. 22, the night of the ice-dance finals.
"Both of the teams have had great seasons," said Igor Shpilband, who coaches the skaters along with Marina Zoueva. "They've definitely raised the bar as far as the level of their competition compared to previous years.
"Based on the scores they've been putting up, they're not chasing other teams -- they're being chased."
The fact that the teams train at the same facility with the same coaches will make for a compelling storyline once the Olympic ice-dancing competition commences on Feb. 19.
With the Belbin-Agosto duo also in the mix, the event is sure to be must-see, edge-of-your-seat TV for millions of people around the world -- regardless of whether you can tell the difference between a Choctaw turn and a camel spin.
"It's unique to have such a great friendship with two of our biggest competitors," noted Virtue. "We've followed pretty much the same path as Charlie and Meryl the past several years, so it's nice to have other people right there every day who understand what we're going through."
"Having Scott and Tessa training with us has really enhanced our experience," Davis agreed. "They're our main competition -- along with Tanith and Ben and a few other teams
Davis, who grew up in West Bloomfield, and White, a native of Bloomfield Hills, started building on- and off-ice chemistry about the same time they were learning how to spell the word.
"We skated at the same rink growing up, so we've known each other for a long time," said the 22-year-old Davis. "When we were about 8 or 9, Charlie's coach at the time wanted to find a dance partner for him and since I was there already and we were the right height for each other, we hooked up."
"We were very fortunate to have a lot of people around us who were very supportive," said White, also 22. "I think the chemistry developed quickly because we were so young and we really didn't have a lot of other things to worry about."
Like all world-class athletes, Davis and White have had to make sacrifices ("Sleeping in would probably be No. 1," Davis said, laughing), but not as many as most of their peers.
"Charlie and I have been fortunate in that we haven't had to go to a lot of extremes like a lot of other skaters," Davis said. "We didn't have to move across the country or leave our families. We've attended public schools.
"Our social lives have been affected to a certain extent. The path we've taken isn't the normal path young people take. We've definitely made sacrifices, but we wouldn't trade what we're doing for anything."
The pair train together on the ice roughly 20 hours a week. They also spend several hours a week enhancing their out-of-skates fitness, much of the time at Velocity Sports Performance, which is located in the upper level of the Arctic Edge.
Given their lofty ranking, will Davis and White be satisfied with anything short of a medal at February's Olympic Games?
"It's tough because after all the time we've put into this, you really, really want a medal," acknowledged White. "But if we go out there and skate our best and know that we left it all on the ice, you can only be so disappointed if you don't win something."
Spend 20 minutes with Davis and White, and you'll find that their friendship is deep and rich. They smile easily at each other's quips and seem to share a common bond that won't be broken, medal or not.
That said, the spectacular skaters don't spend a ton of their away-from-the-rink time together.
"Free time? What's that?" Davis joked, smiling. "We'll hang out together during the off-season, but -- and I know Charlie would agree with this -- it's not like when I do have some free time, I'm thinking, 'Geez, I wish I could spend some more time with Charlie."
White nodded, smiling.
Like Davis and White, Virtue and Moir began synchronizing their skating moves during their elementary-school years. Both natives of London, Ont. (Moir was raised in Ilderton, Ont.), the two became one on ice when Moir was 9 and Virtue was 7.
"When we were young, we took it one year at a time," said Virtue, reflecting back on the early years with Moir. "Our thinking was that as long as we were having fun and we enjoyed skating with each other, we'd keep going. That was almost 14 years ago.
"When I was 13 and Scott was 15, we moved to Waterloo (Ont.) to train. That was a big step because it meant we were going to take it more seriously and we knew skating is what we wanted to do."
The pair started training at the Arctic Edge six years ago.
"We love it here," emphasized Virtue. "We're not far from where we grew up and we have world-class coaches. Igor and Marina have become such big parts of our lives."
"Igor and Marina are the best coaches in the world as far as I'm concerned," Moir said. "And the Arctic Edge is a great place to train because it has everything we need right here. It's like our own little bubble.
"I love going home, but it can get a little overwhelming because everybody wants to talk about the Olympics every second because Canada is the host country and they're excited for us."
The duo seem to be peaking at the right time. In November, they won the gold medal at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating.
An admitted "adrenaline junkie," Moir said he has to temper his competitive juices during tournaments.
"I get really excited before we go to the rink (for competitions), but once I'm there, I find that I have to calm myself down," he said. "If I get too excited, I'll be more prone to make the one little mistake that could cost us. My adrenaline edge is always there; I've just learned how to manage it."
"I'm a little more reserved off the ice than Scott is," Virtue said. "Once we step on the ice, I really feel the support of the crowd. And I like skating under pressure. The bigger the event, the better I skate."
If everything works as planned, and Virtue and Moir are standing on the top level of the medal stand Feb. 22 with "Oh, Canada" piping through the Vancouver Olympic Centre's sound system, can they visualize the emotions they'll probably be feeling?
"Oh, yeah," Moir said. "I got emotional watching the qualifying for Canada's curling team, so I can only imagine how emotional I'd get if we're fortunate to win a gold medal. But we have a long way to go and a lot of work still ahead of us."
By NANCY ARMOUR (AP)
Meryl Davis and Charlie White's unique, Indian-themed original dance is a hit all over the globe, with people from Michigan to Mumbai — many of whom don't know the first thing about ice dancing — raving about the program and forwarding videos of it to family and friends. One video alone on YouTube has racked up over 210,000 views, astronomical numbers for a figure skating program.
"It's very cool," Davis said. "Charlie and I have always been excited about being different and embracing what we could bring to the sport. It's really exciting to expand the fan base, and expand the fan base to parts of the world that haven't really experienced it before."
For the original dance, skaters are given a prescribed rhythm — a tango, for example — but can use any music or choreography that falls under that rhythm. This season, folk/country dance was chosen for the OD.
Although many skaters opt for American country — the Vancouver Games might give new meaning to the term dueling banjoes — or Spanish music, choreographer Marina Zoueva wanted something that would really make Davis and White stand out.
When she spotted an Hermes scarf with brilliant colors and Indian dancers last spring, she knew she'd found the answer.
"I thought, 'My God, that is Meryl and Charlie's original dance,'" said Zoueva, who has worked with the reigning U.S. champions for the last seven years. "I saw Meryl in that dance right away."
Davis and White loved the idea. The two have interests that reach far beyond their sport (their parents used to take them on cultural "field trips" when they traveled to competitions, and Davis is an anthropology major at Michigan) and they were eager to expose themselves to a culture they didn't know much about.
But they didn't want to simply play characters on the ice. If they were going to do this, they were going to do it right.
They called Anuja Rajendra, who combines Bollywood music and dance with exercise at her BollyFit studio in Ann Arbor, Mich. Rajendra, who once performed professionally, not only showed them how to move their arms and bodies in true Indian dance style, she suggested music and taught them about Indian culture.
"It was important for us to be able to get into the character and be able to understand why we're doing the moves we're doing and what it represents," White said. "It definitely makes it easier to get across to the audience and judges if you know what you're doing and why doing it.
"Also, it was interesting, stuff we weren't familiar with at all."
Davis and White took the moves Rajendra showed them back to Zoueva, who incorporated them into the program. Then, once Zoueva had finished choreographing the OD, which uses music from the 2002 Bollywood hit "Devdas," Rajendra went to the rink to make sure authentic Indian dance could translate onto the ice.
"The dancing itself off the ice is quite tough," Rajendra said. "To maintain the grace but also the athleticism on the ice, it's remarkable."
With Davis in a red, gold and blue sari-like costume and White in a long tan coat with jeweled cuffs, the confidence and grace of their arm movements and footwork transport fans to India. They perform with such ease it's easy to forget they're doing a competitive program and not celebrating at a wedding or other formal occasion.
"It's exactly suited for them," Zoueva said. "I don't think any other team could do this."
Davis and White tested out their OD at a competition in Germany in October, and Zoueva said all the feedback she heard was positive.
But that was nothing compared to the public's reaction.
Videos of programs are posted all the time, but they're usually only of interest to skating fans. Somehow, though, Davis and White's OD began circulating among people in India or with ties to South Asia.
Check the statistics on the OD videos that have been posted on YouTube, and most of the views are by people in India. The program is mentioned on several Web sites celebrating Indian culture. Some of Rajendra's own friends even got e-mails from people in India, telling them they had to check out these American ice dancers.
Like most winter sports, skating isn't very big in India. But people there were impressed — and proud — that American skaters were showcasing their culture.
"This is the new world......of globalization! I am so proud of my heritage! way to go!!," one person who watched the video on YouTube wrote.
"It makes me feel good that something Indian is being shown," said Dr. Shekar Pushpala, a doctor in Indianapolis who was sent the video by a friend in India.
By the end of October, eight or nine people had sent Usman Ahmed links to the video, urging him to post it on his "My Life is Desi" Web site, which is devoted to South Asian culture.
"It's just the fact that the South Asian culture is now blending in," Ahmed said of the enthusiastic reaction. "When people who are not South Asian are doing something related to that, it becomes a big deal.
"They had to go do a lot of research," he added. "It was really nice, seeing that."
Davis and White realized they had a crossover hit on their hands when White saw about 20,000 people had viewed the OD video from Rostelecom Cup, their first Grand Prix event. The numbers continued to climb, and videos from other competitions also have proven popular.
The judges like the program, too. Davis and White have easily won the OD portion of every competition they've been in this year, including setting a personal best at the Grand Prix final earlier this month.
After winning the title at the Grand Prix final, they're firmly in the mix for a medal in Vancouver. And while they'll represent the United States, they can count on support from another country, too.
"There's a certain level of respect due when you attempt something like this," Davis said. "We wanted to make sure we did the program justice."
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Learn about the daily college/skating lives of Charlie, Trevor (Young), Alex (Shibutani), and Evan (Bates) in this piece titled Learning experience. Thanks again TanithandBenfan for sharing!
Some photos here from Andrea, who also took the video below. Also check out Taylor Olson and Scott Dudley's (juvenile dance team) facebook page for more photos. Good luck to them at Junior Nationals next week!
Meryl and Charlie are listed here at SI.com's 2010 Olympic hopefuls. Great that ice dance and M & C are getting some well-deserved attention!
December 6, 2009
Canton team makes major breakthrough
That Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the ISU Grand Prix Final on Friday despite placing second in the free dance bodes well for the future of the ice dance team as it prepares for next month's U.S. Championships.
Davis and White, who grew up in Oakland County and train at the Arctic Edge Arena in Canton, achieved personal-best scores in the original dance (65.80) and free dance (103.64) on their way to becoming the first American team to win the ISU Grand Prix Final.
Their explosive "Phantom of the Opera" free dance placed second to the ballroom elegance of two-time Canadian world medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's "Symphony No. 5," so Davis and White left Japan knowing their program has room for improvement.
Say what you want about the alphabet soup of the new scoring system (we're in its sixth season and my head is still spinning), the one positive thing it has done over the former 6.0 judging system is help keep ice dancing's nose clean in the accountability department.
Under the new system (remember, it was instituted after the pairs controversy at the 2002 Winter Games), each element is given a point value based on difficulty. What that means is that Davis and White will resume training in Canton this week with clear-cut information from the judges instead of guessing what needs to improve.
For instance, their free dance at the Final received three Level 3's (Level 4 is the highest) -- for their combination spin, synchronized twizzles and diagonal step sequence. Clean that up, and Davis and White's score has the possibility to increase even more.
For those of you who think Davis and White's victory shouldn't be taken too seriously because the reigning world gold and silver medalists (Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia, and five-time U.S. champs Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto) weren't in the field, I don't buy that.
Davis and White are the real deal.
The team -- as well as Virtue and Moir, who train with Davis and White in Canton with coaches Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva -- have proved throughout the season by their scores just how competitive they'll be at the Olympics in February in Vancouver.
It's interesting to note that two of the three ice dance medalists from the 2005 ISU Grand Prix Final won medals in the exact order two months later at the 2006 Torino Olympics: gold medalists Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov of Russia, and silver medalists Belbin and Agosto.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White grow into their ice dancing partnership
By CHAREAN WILLIAMS
Meryl Davis was 9 when she met 8-year-old Charlie White. It was partnership at first skate.
They still are together 13 years later and among the medal contenders in ice dancing.
"We’ve skated together for 13 years. That’s the better half of our lives," Davis said. "I can’t really remember a time when we weren’t skating together. It seems second nature now."
Davis and White grew up a snowball’s throw from each other in Bloomfield, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. White was a freestyle skater and a hockey player, but he had "terrible posture." So his skating coach put him in ice dancing and paired him with Davis because the two looked good together.
It took awhile before they spoke to each other.
"We were both pretty shy and not very mature," White said.
Now, they complete each other’s sentences.
"We both know like what the other one is probably is going to say," White said. "I’ll say something and think, 'I just stole that from Meryl.’ "
Davis said they developed their skills together, "growing into it." As the longest-running ice dance partnership in the U.S., Davis and White consider themselves "family."
Their relationship helps their partnership because they spend seven hours a day together at the rink.
"I like Meryl, and I hope she likes me," White said. "I think we’ve been very fortunate in that respect. ... After the 13 years we’ve been together, it’s been a real blessing to have a partner I get along with so well."
They won the United States Junior Ice Dancing title in 2006. In 2007, they were second at the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships and third a year later. This year, they won the U.S. Ice Dance crown and later won the 2009 Four Continents Championships.
"Charlie and I definitely have that kind of underdog kind of status," Davis said. "Whether or not we actually are, we always kind of think of ourselves that way. I think it’s a healthier way to go into competition."
Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia are the 2009 World Ice Dance champions and the Olympic gold medal favorites. Americans Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, who won the silver medal at the 2006 Olympics, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada and Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France also are medal contenders.
Belbin and Agosto did not compete in the U.S. championships last fall after Agosto injured his back. But they finished second at worlds.
Still, despite the competition, Davis and White like their chances.
"Our goal is to get a gold medal," White said. "If we skate our best, we have as good a chance as anyone."
Ice dancing: Feb. 19, 21, 22 (medal)
Charean Williams, 817-390-7760