Ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their second consecutive gold medal at U. S. Nationals last week to qualify for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in February. The dancers are the top-ranked ice dancing couple in the world this season after winning the 2009-10 ISU Grand Prix Final in December as well as two Grand Prix events in the fall.
The dancers scored a personal best 222.29 total points to best 2009 world silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto by 3.78 points.
Davis and White earned 45.42 points in the compulsory dance, the Golden Waltz.
“We’ve done a waltz every year for the last ten years,” he added. “Waltzes come easy for us and feel very natural.”
“We haven’t been senior that long so we had done the Golden Waltz but not the tango,” White stated. “Both the Golden Waltz and the tango are very different dances and the skating skills required are tremendous, but we’re comfortable with the steps.”
“We worked more on the tango in the summer,” he added. “We worked with a ballroom instructor before we took it to the ice. The Golden kind of took a back seat because it’s not as difficult and Nationals was the only place we were sure we would be doing it before the season.”
The couple scored 68.11 for their original dance, an authentic Indian folk dance which has drawn raves from judges and fans alike as well as a following in India, where ice dancing is almost unknown.
“We wanted to show something really different and unique,” Davis said. “It’s different from the Arabian and Middle Eastern dances that you usually see. There’s a stark contrast between our dance and other dances.”
“Last year, we were more classical,” White added. “This is something different for the skating world. It’s very high energy and has some great movements.”
“We had an Indian dance teacher in Ann Arbor who taught us the difference between Bollywood and traditional Indian folk dances,” White noted. “Bollywood isn’t really authentic folk dancing.”
Davis and White scored 108.76 in their free dance to “Phantom of the Opera”. “It’s quite a change of pace from the original dance,” White said. “We used the Broadway version except for the last instrumental piece from the movie.”
“We reviewed a lot of music after last year’s Worlds,” Davis explained. “There were a lot of other choices but we kept coming back to ‘Phantom”. Then we had a lot of different versions of ‘Phantom’ to choose from.”
“I had five other different ideas for the free dance,” said coach Igor Shpilband, “but Charlie wanted to go with ‘Phantom’. I think it was the right choice. In my opinion, their performance at last year’s Worlds was very hard to t0p, but I think they have done it.”
“It’s a generalization of the story itself,” White continued. “We didn’t have to go with the exact structure of the movie or the play. First it’s the mystery of who he is, then how he gets Christine to love him, and finally when he reveals his face.”
Their gala program for the season is Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” by David Cook.
“We decided on the music before he died,” White said. “It’s not a tribute, just a coincidence. But we appreciate what he did.”
Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva coach the dancer, who train in Canton, Michigan for four to five hours a day, five days a week. They also have ballet twice a week and a workout program three times a week.
“We just stick to the basics,” White noted, “no yoga or Pilates.”
Zoueva and Shpilband choreograph their programs with help from others such as Johnny Johns, Adrianne Lenda, and Michael Lee as well as Anuja Rajendra, who worked with them on their original dance this season.
“Marina was the driving force behind the original dance,” White stated.
“We always have input into our programs,” Davis said. “At this point in our careers, it’s important to contribute something to each program.”
“We have a good sense of what we do best,” White added. “We work on a lot of stuff ourselves and if anything isn’t comfortable, we tell Igor.”
“We always make sure we have creative lifts,” Davis stated. “Lifts are the highlights of the program now and we want to catch people’s attention and get more points.”
“Spins come easy for us,” she added. “We’ve been spinning like crazy for the last couple of years.”
Davis and White plan to compete at the World Championships in Torino, no matter what their placement at the Olympics.
“We plan on doing the full season,” Davis said. “We always take one season at a time and most likely we’ll continue next year.”
Both of the dancers are musically inclined. Davis learned the flute and White played the violin.
Davis and White are both juniors at the University of Michigan.
“I’m taking cultural anthropology and Italian,” Davis said. “My dream is to work for National Geographic or the Discovery Channel or something along those lines.
“I kind of want to go to law school,” White said. “I want to take some political science and history courses because it’s a goof background for law school.”