HALIFAX — Just two weeks before they were scheduled to open the Grand Prix season this past fall, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje completely scrapped their short program, and headed back to the drawing board.
They jettisoned Elvis and went with Strauss, choosing an elegant waltz to "The Blue Danube."
It was a risky move, with so little time to prepare — but they say a small detail on Poje's costume told them it was the right one.
Poje's costume, designed by the Stratford Festival, has him dressed like a dignitary at a military ball, with black tux and tails, and an old medallion that Weaver determined — after some research — dates back to the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. Encircling a cross are the words "In Hoc Signes Vinces."
"It's rumoured (Constantine) saw this symbol in the sky before his battle and it meant 'In this we shall conquer,'" Weaver said. "And so when we read that on Wikipedia or whatever it was just 'OK. It's a sign that maybe we're doing the right thing by changing everything.'
"It was a good omen. Plus it looks really cool."
Weaver, in a beaded cream dress with a floaty skirt, and Poje, from Waterloo, Ont., are poised to win their second consecutive Canadian ice dance title. The duo scored 76.20 in Friday's short dance, to lead Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier (70.63). Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam were third (68.30).
Weaver and Poje have won every competition this season and last, except the world championships where they wound up third.
The two came into this season motivated by that disappointing result.
"I think the goal of the season is to keep on improving, never stop learning and never stop pushing," Weaver said. "Just because we've succeeded so far doesn't mean that we can rest."
Gilles and Poirier, meanwhile, took an off-beat route to their second place finish in Friday's short dance, skating to a program that combined The Beatles and Mozart. The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" bookends the middle waltz segment.
"I think it's so us," Gilles said of the music, the program, and its quirky choreography. "We look at all the other competitors who are on the scene, and I'm not saying we are always the different ones, but everyone tends to do the lovey-dovey, the partner, the beautiful dancers.
"We can do that, we showed that last year with our very dancey program, but we keep wanting to try things that are interesting for us, and keeps pushing forward, so doing something daring and interesting makes us feel like we're doing our job."
Gilles, from Toronto, and Poirier, from Unionville, Ont., wore costumes from the album cover of The Beattles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
Gilles wore the bright pink of Ringo Starr, while Poirier went with Paul Simon's metallic blue.
Canada has traditionally boasted some of the best ice dancers in the world — one has only to look at the television broadcasting booth, where Olympic gold and silver medallists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are working this week.
Gilles and Poirier said it's motivating having the likes of Weaver and Poje to chase.
"Canada is such a strong country for ice dance, so being able to move up is very difficult," Gilles said. "But it's good for us to go into worlds with a good group of strong competitors, so it makes Canada look good, it makes us look good."
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press