KINGSTON, ONTARIO – In novice dance Victoria Oliver and George Waddell hope for a podium finish. At first blush, Waddell is a Charlie White lookalike –same hair but taller – and he slips across the ice with his head up, looking quite aristocratic. He and his partner have been together for two years. Waddell took over dancing with Oliver, who had danced with Waddell’s twin brother, Charles, who left dance for other pursuits.

After two pattern dances, the Paso Doble and Westminster Waltz, however, they are in 6th place. It seems that this year, it’s crowded at the top. Never has the competition been so stiff in novice dance.

At the top of the heap is Marjorie Lajoie, 14,  and Zachary Lagha, 15, who have already been skating together four years. They chalked up their biggest scores in the second dance, the Westminster Waltz, but truthfully, Lagha likes the Paso Doble better. “It’s a man’s dance,” he said. They finished in a tie with Gina Cipriano and Bradley Keeping Myra, (representing Nova Scotia) in the Paso.

Last year, they were pre-novice champions. This, their first year at the novice level, they were hoping for a top-five finish. The free dance is still to come on Tuesday.

The team that actually won the Paso Doble are their training mates: Alicia Fabbri, at age 11, the youngest woman in the competition, and her partner, Claudio Pietrantonio, 17.

They have been skating together for only eight months. Because of the difference in their ages, it’s difficult to find the right free dance for them, but they will opt for rock and roll. “It comes really natural to her,” says Mylene Girard, who also works with the team.

Fabbri, looking years beyond her age, and her partner easily won the Paso with 28.80, more than two points better than the second-placed team. Lajoie and Lagha won the Westminster waltz with 31.72, about three points ahead of Sabrina Bedard and Zoe Duval-Yergeau, another Quebec team.

With the scores combined, Lajoie and Lagha are still ahead by 1.62 points over Bedard and Duval-Yergeau. Fabbri and Pietrantonio are in third place, out of second by only three-hundreds of a point.

The top six teams are separated by only 3.55 points.

The coaching team of two of the top three teams is LMK International, headed by veteran coach Julien Lalonde, who toils with technique along with Valerie Allard. Former ice dancer Mylene Girard is part of the team, focusing on choreography.
Lalonde said his aim is to get skaters to the Junior Grand Prix events and beyond. Currently they have teams all the way up to senior.

Lalonde said it took him a year to convince Lagha that he had the perfect partner in his club, and after they had a tryout, Lagha was “hooked” and joined the club. “It was magic from day one,” Lalonde said.

In novice women, Justine Brasseur easily leads with 43.05 points, while Alicia Pineault is second with 40.65 and Rachel Pettitt is third with 37.00.