Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue
Official Website - 2012, 2013, and 2014 U.S. Figure Skating National Team Members and 2014 ISU Four Continents Ice Dance Champions
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Madi & Zach
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Madi and Zach cap their fall competitive season with gold at Golden Spin and bronze at Skate Canada and Trophée Eric Bompard
Plus: Madi's mom offers an inside look into the costume-making process
December 12, 2014 - Webmaster Update
Congratulations to Madi and Zach on completing their Fall 2014 competitive season!
On November 1st, Madi and Zach won the bronze medal at Skate Canada International, held in Kelowna, BC. The competition was an opportunity for Madi and Zach to debut their programs in a competitive setting and obtain feedback from international judges. Despite having trained for only six weeks, Madi and Zach were able to execute six Level 4 elements between their short and free dances, and earned a combined score of 148.23 for the competition.
After Skate Canada, Madi and Zach trained harder, refined their programs, and even worked with Madi's mom, Sue, to revamp their costumes (see below). On November 22nd, they improved their combined score to 152.11 at Trophée Eric Bompard in Bordeaux, France, where they won the bronze medal. There, they again executed six Level 4 elements between their short and free dances, and generated particularly positive attention for a strong free dance.
Madi and Zach then regrouped quickly to compete at Golden Spin of Zagreb, where on December 6th they became the first American ice dancers to win the event in 28 years. In addition to executing nine Level 4 elements, they received personal-best scores in international competition in all phases of the event, earning 66.40, 100.34, and 166.74 points in the short dance, free dance, and overall, respectively.
At Golden Spin, Madi and Zach posted scores that were among the highest in ice dance so far this season, and look forward to improving upon these results at their next competition, the 2015 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, NC. Cheer them on, whether live or in spirit!
In other news, don't forget to follow Madi and Zach's new, combined Twitter account at @hubbelldonohue, as well as their individual accounts at @MadiHubbell and @ZachTDonohue!
Inside the costume-making process with Susan Hubbell
At Trophée Eric Bompard, Madi and Zach unveiled new costumes for both the short and free dance. These costumes were designed and hand-made by Susan Hubbell, Madi's mom. For this website, Sue graciously took time to share some insight into the costume design and manufacturing process.
Sue's background is in clothing design. She's "always loved fashion" and has sewn her entire life. Currently, she's very active in interior design work. In the past, Sue has worked on costumes for ballet and stage productions, gowns for weddings, and pieces for clothing lines.
Many skating parents can attest to the tremendous investments and sacrifices that go into their children's skating careers. For Sue, this involvement goes much deeper. She's made all of the costumes that Madi and Zach have worn, plus almost all those that Madi and her brother Keiffer wore when they skated together. Sue jokes that it's "hard to watch the kids skate because I'm watching the costumes all the time. Why is that arm doing that? Or why is that wrinkle there?"
Skating costumes versus theatre costumes
According to Sue, designing the right costume is always challenging because, as a skater, "you need to look good every single moment you're out there, when you're being watched from every single direction, all while you're doing extreme athletics." One year, the Hubbell family decided to try something different, spending $10,000 on third-party costumes for Madi and Keiffer, only to have require extensive alterations after their first competition of the season. They hurriedly went back to Sue, who designed brand-new costumes for them just in time for Nationals.
In particular, when compared to other pieces Sue has worked on, "skating costumes are harder because you have additional challenges that are not present with stage costumes. First, in skating there is no stage lighting to enhance the appearance. Athletes perform on a huge, blank stage with nothing else around them, and they are viewed by spectators from 360 degrees." Therefore, while some costumes may look brilliant on a theatre stage, where "a dress with 5,000 rhinestones will look like a disco ball in show lighting," that same dress may come across much differently on the ice, not only on its own, but also in the context of other skaters sharing the same ice with costumes of their own.
Designing each season's costumes
While Sue "always has ideas for dresses," she incorporates a variety of inputs and ideas in the costume design process at the beginning of each season, whether her own or those of Madi, Zach, and their coaches. When Madi was younger, she would often nod approvingly at Sue's ideas, but as Madi and Zach have grown more independent and seasoned, they've also become quite "opinionated and artistic, and usually have a strong mind about what they want."
As each season progresses, the entire team also receives continual feedback from officials and other experts, whom they meet at venues like USFS Champs Camp and at monitoring sessions. For example, this season, Madi and Zach's free dance is to music from the modern Baz Luhrmann portrayal of The Great Gatsby, which presents "endless possibilities" as the movie is "a great venue for costumes." These possibilities include designs that are "authentic" or "vintage" to the period depicted in the movie - or even exact replicas of the characters in the movie. Because Madi and Zach's music selections are more modern, however, they were also counseled to incorporate more modern influences into their free dance costumes.
Meanwhile, the short dance costumes that Madi and Zach wore at Skate Canada were inspired by an online video of "Malaguena" that was suggested to them. While the costumes received positive feedback at Champs Camp, Madi began experiencing issues with the mesh of her dress, as well as a planned sash around the waist that changed the look of her lines. That sash was abandoned altogether for Skate Canada, after which the team chose to rethink all their costumes for the season.
New costumes, mid-season
With only weeks between Skate Canada and their next competition at Trophée Eric Bompard in France, Sue had to work fast, not only to come up with new costume ideas, but also to execute them, even turning down lucrative assignments from her regular work. While "some costumes take a long time and others are a bit simpler," there's often "hours and hours of handiwork" involved. The dress Madi used for her Great Gatsby free dance at Skate Canada was "almost completely made of stones" - 7,000 of them, in fact. For Sue, this "took hours to sit there and glue them in place," one-by-one, blending them into the fabric in order to enhance the feeling of movement.
For their new short dance costumes, drafting the patterns "took a few trials and errors," but Sue was quickly able to design a "completely seamless" pattern for Madi. Specifically, the dress accentuates and highlights the effortlessly gorgeous lines and edges Madi creates with her legs, and also was hand-dyed several times to arrive at the perfect shade of "deep garnet red." Zach's costume, meanwhile, features an intricate series of ruffles around the chest to mirror the Spanish theme of the dance.
For their new free dance costumes, Madi and Zach received feedback that their costumes should be less "invisible," create less of an impression of "blended movements," and instead show "starker contrast to the ice." Sue arrived at a formula for the costumes that, while "neither hip-hop nor vintage," still draws inspiration from the Great Gatsby theme, particularly the "linear" and "blingy" gold-on-black graphics and marketing for the movie. Already, Sue feels that "something about the new costumes works" - especially in the way they highlight Madi and Zach's "clarity of movements."
Labor of love
Skating costumes are very expensive. Ladies' singles skaters "usually pay at least $1,000 for a simple, straightforward dress," while more elaborate dresses "can be $5,000 or more." The expense is not just for materials, which runs into the thousands of dollars for each costume, but also for many hours of painstaking labor and handwork. Despite the fact that someone with Sue's skills and experience could be paid extremely well to make skating costumes, Sue prefers to focus primarily on Madi, Zach, and one or two other training mates at any particular time, because the well-defined schedule of the skating season often makes for very tight deadlines, with numerous costumes due all at once.
In the immediate wake of Trophée Eric Bompard, Madi and Zach's new costumes are already drawing strongly positive feedback. Nevertheless, you won't see Sue Hubbell resting on her laurels. Count on Sue to continue watching every step of Madi and Zach's performances - as well as those of their costumes - in coming up with new ideas.
Previous news updates from Madi & Zach
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