Meryl Davis and Charlie White perform their ice dancing routine during… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Ice dancing will be the main attraction at Skate America in Ontario this weekend.
The days when Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan drew American eyes to figure skating for a rivalry turned ugly, or when Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski and Sarah Hughes did it by winning Olympic and world championship gold medals, those days seem long gone.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the only reigning American figure skating world champions, and the ice dancing couple is the headline act for Skate America, which kicks off the Grand Prix season Friday at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
Though the competition had advertised Evan Lysacek, the 2010 Olympic gold medalist, Lysacek announced this week via Twitter that he would not be skating here.
American national champion Alissa Czisny will be starting her 2011-12 season, though, and 2011 world bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy is in the field. So is 2010 Olympian Caroline Zhang of Brea, the 18-year-old who has struggled since finishing a disappointing 12th at the 2011 U.S. nationals.
Richard Dornbush of Corona, who finished second at last year's U.S. nationals, is in the men's field, which is highlighted by 2011 world silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka of Japan and fourth-place finisher Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic.
This will be the first competitive appearance for Davis and White since they became the first U.S. team to win a world ice dancing gold medal.
"We're so ready," Davis said after she and White performed practice runs of their new free dance, which will be skated to music from the Johann Strauss operetta "Die Fledermaus." "I think we're both confident and excited."
Part of their free dance was choreographed by Elena Grinenko, who has danced and choreographed for "Dancing With the Stars," a show Davis said she'd love to compete on — except, she said, that she and White would not be allowed because they've had professional dance training.
Davis and White, three-time U.S. champions, are on a six-competition winning streak.
Both skaters are enthusiastic about the debut of their new free dance. White said the music of "Die Fledermaus," which tells a story that is partly set at a masquerade ball, "fills up an arena, fills up the rink. It's bigger than life. It's just perfect. We even get to give sarcastic smiles."
More important, said their coach, Igor Shpilband, the program fills up an ice rink with the intricate footwork of a world-class ice dancing program.
"It's a very difficult program," Shpilband said. "It's not a safe play."