Gabriella Papadakis, Guillaume Cizeron on ‘Fame,’ chasing history

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World ice dance champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron sat for an interview with NBCSports.com/figure-skating after winning their first Grand Prix event of the season at home in France.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and condensed.

Your free dance this season, an extended poem set to music, is different from anything ice dance fans are used to. How did you come up with this idea?

Papadakis: Several of us had the same idea at the same time. We thought we could use words to skate to. [Coach] Marie [-France Dubreuil] and I, in particular. That’s often what happens. We all intuitively find ourselves to be on the same page. This year we felt like skating to words.

Cizeron: We also found some videos of ballet dancers dancing to Forest Black’s songs, and we could imagine what it might be. So, we worked with those words.

Could you describe the creative process you followed?

Papadakis: We didn’t want only to show something beautiful. We really worked on each word and its meaning. We tried to find a specific movement to express each word of the lyrics.

Cizeron: Our idea was to stick to the interpretation of each word through specific body movements. The sonority and the rhythm of these words inspired a certain way to move. This gave us an additional opportunity to create some contemporary movements – instead of dancing something that would just be meant to be beautiful.

Papadakis: The poem doesn’t bear an obvious and clear meaning. It’s rather abstract. But when I heard it for the first time, I felt a rhythm, a specific way to pronounce the words, how the artist played with the noise behind him, and how he projected us out of reality. Afterwards, I read the text as a whole, and of course I found it was magnificent.

In this poem you feel something like an atmosphere, an idea, an emotion, even though you don’t know exactly what the author may be talking about. It creates a somewhat abstract ambiance, which we like.

Cizeron: Also, we’ve always had the wish to integrate poetry into our free programs.

So, you feel that while it’s different from past ideas, you’re also taking one step further down the path you’ve already been following?

Papadakis: That’s right. Abstract and poetry are two tracks we’ve always been following. They are combined in this year’s free dance.

Cizeron: In a way, it’s completely different from what we’ve done, but at the same time it’s completely ourselves. The process we are taking is to deepen who we are each time a bit more.

What are you chasing, now that you’ve won four world and five European titles, plus an Olympic silver medal? Medals, or history?

Papadakis: Both, if it’s possible. Winning titles wouldn’t be enough to make us wake up early every morning. We would love to mark the history of our sport and the audience.

Cizeron: They go together, actually, and one serves the other. Pushing ourselves in our artistic journey generates medals. And because there are medals at stake, [it] motivates us to create.

You said that your “Fame”/disco-themed rhythm dance was fun. How fun was it to create?

Cizeron: When [coach] Romain [Haguenauer] proposed “Fame” to us, we went to see some videos. I brought the movie.

Papadakis: We found the 1980s were a very funny period of time. People were wearing those big stockings and small shorts and fluorescent outfits and headbands. That was too much, but so funny at the same time.

Cizeron: The more it went, and the more interested we got. We all dreamt in front of movies like “Flashdance,” “Un Dos Tres,” … We’ve seen all dancers’ movies, and they’ve made us dream.

Papadakis: When you watch these movies, you kind of think, wow, they were so lucky. They had a school and they were together. Then we realized that it was pretty much our own life. We also are living in a school, and learning, and practicing together, all vying to succeed.

Cizeron: We were rather worried to do something that would look ridiculous – or to give those years a ridiculous outlook. We wanted to push the cool and fun side of this period, with the vintage outfits, not too serious, and update with our own look of people who were born in 1994.

And yet, again you manage to deliver a story during the program.

Cizeron: Many fans who were born in the 1980s keep thanking us for selecting that theme. That’s so cool. We remind them of their younger years, and that creates an additional link with the audience.

Of course, we can’t be nostalgic for years we’ve not lived ourselves, but our dance generates that nostalgia in those who’ve lived them. I went to ask my parents if they really dressed that way. My mom did – because as a dance teacher she did dance ballet and jazz. But my dad obviously answered “No, not at all.”

MORE: Gracie Gold qualifies for U.S. nationals

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”