ice dance

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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

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Madison Chock, Evan Bates back on Grand Prix circuit with ‘new power’

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GRENOBLE, France – Madison Chock and Evan Bates have always been known for their mastery of edges, their footwork, and sheer generosity they display on the ice. Since they arrived in their new training base in Montréal some 18 months ago, they have developed a new charisma and interpretation skills, which give each of their performances an enhanced intensity, impact, and visibility.

How did they achieve such a transformation?

“I don’t know! The charming of the snake maybe?” Chock suggested with a laugh after their “Egyptian snake” themed free dance in at Grand Prix France, where the couple earned silver a silver medal.

The “charming” is efficient: one could even argue there has been a complete change of style for the team, who is now much more consistent and powerful than it used to be. That change was obvious from their rhythm dance and confirmed by their free dance during their first Grand Prix outing of the season.

“That may be due to our evolution as performers, more than [as] athletes,” Bates added. “Performing has become our new motto: at the point we are in our careers, it’s more about the performance than about the technicalities. Our free program is a good example of this. Now we are more focused on our story, on the energy of the program, on the connection between the two of us. It’s a good a mindset to have, and it has changed our skating.”

Managing such a transformation is not easy, at a point in their career when most skaters just capitalize on their names and past performance. After all, Chock and Bates have been Olympians together twice already (in 2014 and 2018), they have won medals at two world championships (silver, 2015; bronze, 2016) and at two Grand Prix Finals (silver in 2014 and 2015). And they claimed gold at Four Continents in 2019.

“They allowed us to put them in discomfort, so that we could help them crack the mold they were in,” explained Marie-France Dubreuil, who coaches them with Patrice Lauzon and Romain Haguenauer in Montréal.

“We’ve always been willing to keep learning and improving – in our sport, but that applies also to all the aspects of our lives,” Chock confirmed.

“There is a new dynamic between the two of them,” Haguenauer added.

“And even a new power,” Dubreuil continued. “At one point, when [Chock] was injured, I saw [Bates] skate by himself and I was struck to see how powerful he was when he was by himself. As if he was re-training himself when his partner was with him. Evan is tall, powerful. We tried to help him be more aligned with his blade-to-ice contacts, more controlled. Both are hyper-elegant. So, we tried to free the machine and let it go.”

“Since we’ve arrived in Montréal, we have become more dancers, and less skaters,” Bates added. “This is also what you see from [training partners] Gabriella [Papadakis] and Guillaume [Cizeron]. They can be on skates and they could be off skates, and they would still be just as beautiful. They transcend the ice.”

Part of the impact of Chock and Bates’ performances is due to a renewed set of interpretation skills, something the school in Montréal has also been known for.

“Madison has always been a great performer,” Bates acknowledged. “I am working not to be only the guy next to her, or who is presenting her. It’s more our couple now, a man and a woman on the ice. It’s so natural for her to drive everybody’s eyes. But at the same time, it’s also a big responsibility for me to skate with someone who is so talented.”

“Of course, the choreographic work is paying off,” Dubreuil explained. “For us every movement has to bear a meaning. A movement is not there to fill the music, but to bring to it.”

That’s also a part of Chock and Bates’ transformation: embodying each of their movements.

“A lot of it is a feeling,” Bates explained. “When we are choreographing, some things work and some don’t. Those things that come to us naturally, that’s where the movement becomes authentic.”

“Also, every program evolves with time,” Chock added. “It changes with the speed and more complex elements you add on through the season. Gestures have to come from a very genuine place within us. When a movement comes organically, it becomes clear that it needs to be in the program.”

The transformation of the team should also be highly visible in Chongqing, China, where they are due to compete this weekend for Cup of China, just one week after Grand Prix France.

“Doing two Challenger Series earlier in the season [they won both the U.S. Classic and Finlandia Trophy] was a good thing for us,” Bates offered. “Our two programs are now in place.”

Their new style is, too. For the better.

MORE: Will Nathan Chen return to six quad jumps in his free skate?

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Hubbell, Donohue defend Skate America title to extend U.S. dance legacy

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Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue extended the U.S.’ ice dance legacy Saturday evening at Skate America in Las Vegas, winning their second straight title at the event.

Hubbell and Donohue, two-time and reigning national champions, performed their free dance to selections from “A Star is Born,” scoring 124.58 points, for a total score of 209.55 points. It was their season debut and the duo are slated to compete next weekend at Skate Canada to lock up a spot in December’s prestigious Grand Prix Final.

“We were happy to put it out for the first time and looking forward to getting a lot of feedback,” Hubbell said afterward through U.S. Figure Skating. “There were good things and not so good things, and we feel like we can make a lot of progress for next week. There was a nice crowd reaction and there was a good connection between the two of us and that’s a great place to start.”

“I’m hoping to have two working lungs by Skate Canada,” added Donohue, who revealed he has bronchitis.

U.S. ice dance teams have now won 11 straight titles at Skate America, and 15 of the last 17 titles, going back to 2003.

Aleksandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, who sat fourth behind Hubbell and Donohue at the 2019 World Championships, finished runner-up by a 2.98-point margin. Their free dance to Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” won the phase with 124.66 points, but their overall score of 206.57 landed them in second place.

Canada’s Laurence Fornier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen claimed the bronze medal. Their free dance tallied 118.36 points and they earned an overall score of 197.53 points. Until January 2018, the team represented Denmark. This Skate America bronze is their first-ever Grand Prix medal.

Skate America results are here.

The other American teams in the field finished sixth and seventh. Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko earned 180.55 total points, while Caroline Green and Michael Parsons scored 173.03. Green and Parsons were skating in their Grand Prix debut as a new team this season. Green formerly danced with her brother and Parsons was previously partnered with his sister.

“I’m very pleasantly surprised at how well she has adapted to senior,” Parsons said of Green, who last year competed on the junior level. “She has done really well and I couldn’t be happier.”

“I think that it is a challenge that I am ready for,” Green said of the change. “I’m happy to see that. I think this competition sort of solidified in myself that I’m capable of competing at the senior level. It was definitely a little confidence boost there.”

U.S. ice dance wins at Skate America:

  • 2003: Tanith White and Ben Agosto
  • 2004: White/Agosto
  • 2005: White/Agosto
  • 2007: White/Agosto
  • 2009: White/Agosto
  • 2010: Meryl Davis and Charlie White
  • 2011: Davis/White
  • 2012: Davis/White
  • 2013: Davis/White
  • 2014: Madison Chock and Evan Bates
  • 2015: Chock/Bates
  • 2016: Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani
  • 2017: Shibutani/Shibutani
  • 2018: Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue
  • 2019: Hubbell and Donohue

MORE: How to watch Skate America | Nathan Chen, Jason Brown atop men’s field | Shcherbakova lands two quads to win ladies’ event

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Check out a free trial of the Figure Skating Pass during Skate America from Oct. 18-20. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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