VANCOUVER – Israel’s ice-dancing duo wrapped up an impressive Olympic showing Monday night with a moving free dance to the music of “Schindler’s List” that gave them their highest-ever scores.
“It was a personal best, not just a season’s best, so that’s pretty good,” said Roman Zaretsky after he and sister Alexandra finished a long program filled with gravity-defying lifts, sharp footwork and emotional intensity good enough to earn them a 10th-place finish.
“The whole season, the whole three, four years, we’ve been coming up to this moment,” Roman said of pushing themselves to a new high mark. “The Olympics is over for us, and we did our goal, top 10.”
Several couples taking the ice exceeded their season’s best score despite – or because of – the Olympic pressure.
That pressure was felt no more keenly than by Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who appeared before an ecstatic home crowd desperate for Canada’s first gold in ice dancing and show of Canadian strength after several home-grown heroes have faltered elsewhere during these Olympic Games.
And they didn’t disappoint, delivering a virtuoso performance that saw four sets of perfect marks. Second-place Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White also gave a spectacular display, offering a more dramatic dance to the Canadians’ elegant classicism as they skated to “Phantom of the Opera”, where Scott and Moir chose Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.
Both couples performed impossible no-hold lifts, though the Americans, in one of the few deductions handed down, received a point off for apparently extending one lift too long.
The reigning world champions, Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia, could muster only a third-place finish with a performance that included “Requim for a Dream,” the third couple to use the piece that night. Their bronze medal was Russia’s poorest showing ever at the Olympic Games.
Coming in a disappointing fourth were the second of three American couples, Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto. Belbin and Agosto, another Jewish skater, took silver in Turin in 2006, the highest-level win for North American ice dancers until Monday night. Hopes of another trip to the medal podium were not realized, but Agosto said the couple was still “trying to enjoy every moment of our second Olympics” and was proud of helping start a tradition of North American dominance in the sport.
Tanith and Agosto, like several couples, chose pieces with strong vocal components, though the top two routines, like the Zaretskys’, both stuck to more classical tropes.
After the performance, the Zaretskys said they were pleased that they’d been able to do justice to their music – a challenging piece that provides skaters with great emotion to deal with but also potential pitfalls. In fact, coach Galit Chait – whose sixth-place ice dancing finish at Salt Lake City in 2002 was the best in Israel’s history – was wary of using the piece.
“The music was amazing, she just wasn’t sure we could skate it,” Roman noted.
Alexandra explained, “It’s really emotional to skate to, and if you don’t project it the right way, then it doesn’t work.”
As Roman put it, “This music, no matter when you skate it, Sunday, Monday, Friday, at night, at day, 2 a.m. in the morning, you go on the ice, you hear this music, you want to cry.”
Their performance was heightened with expressive gestures and a powerful use of moments of separation on the ice.
And they enhanced the dramatic display with their costumes, black cloth torn in places to reveal red. The dark tones are a far cry from the glitter and glitz of most of the outfits on display Monday.
“We wanted it simple. Nothing sparkly, nothing complicated,” according to Alexandra, who also cut her dark locks to create an adorned effect.
The presentation was part of the balance they sought to convey between
the heavy emotionalism of their music and the inspiration of their art,
of the weight of the music and airiness of their skating.
music and the skating really came together,” Roman said of the
“balance” the couple achieved with their performance, including their
costumes. “We wanted to show despair and hope, and show that hope wins
in the end.”