We have been following their career closely, and at least once a year, we give them a thorough interrogation. They always submit to our grilling very kindly! One week away from Masters in Orleans (France) here is our September 2012 interview :
Annecy-Infosports : You have been in Detroit (MI) for over one year. What was the hardest part of your adaptation? And the easiest?
Nathalie : Life in the US is, in general, easier than in Russia. Administrative formalities are more simple. Our everyday life is easier when it comes to food for instance. We live 5 minutes away from the rink. It is a big sports complex with three skating rinks, a fitness room, 2 dance rooms and a medical center (for the every day scratches). Thanks to English language, we can enjoy movies, TV and talk with everyone. The most difficult, with leaving Moscow, was to say goodbye to our coaches, to my Russian family, to our Russian friends. And we miss all the cultural events : going to the Bolchoï, to museums…
Fabian : Personally, I had no trouble adjusting. The quality of life being much better, I don’t miss much about Russia.
A.I : All along your career, what did you change in your everyday routines (on and off ice practice, preparing for the competitions)?
Fabian : For the 3 last years, our work off ice has been intensified in order to [make us] feel better physically. « Feeling good in one’s body, feeling good in one’s head », it’s the watchword, the general idea these days.
A.I : Can you tell us what is your partner’ strongest point, as well as her/his weakest? Sorry but « Nathalie talks too much », « Fabian is grumpy », aren’t acceptable since we already know!
Nathalie : Fabian’s strongest point : he is a « visionary ». He has lots of artistic ideas, for lifts in particular, and he knows how to put them in place thanks to his experience. Weak point : he often takes quality over quantity. Let me explain : to work on our physical condition, we skate complete routines during our practices. He prefers to do less, but very well, when I want to make as many runs as possible even if we make mistakes. We each have our way to build up our self-confidence.
Fabian : Her strongest point is she is hard at work and a a great organiser. She keeps us on a clear and tight schedule, it prevents us from straying, not knowing where we’re going. Her weak point… She is obstinate, [ED : we note that he didn't say "stubborn" ], which doesn’t always help to make progress easily.
A.I : You are known to have worked with particularly eclectic consultants. What would you still like to explore or include in your future programs, whether it’s in competitions or exhibitions ?
Nathalie : Our team of choreographers will remain the same until we hang up our skates. They brought us all what we were looking for and as you just said, they come from very different fields.
Laurie Aiyvigan : ballroom, latin dances, musicals, jazz, contemporary dance…
Kader Belmokhtar : Hip Hop
Julien Cottereau : clown and director
Antonio Najarro : Flamenco, Tango.
Thanks to them, we have been able to explore many, many different themes. And we will keep on doing so, with them, because they are not only consultants. We have a mutual understanding, we are going in the same direction, a professional and friendly feeling has taken shape. They bring more than simple moves to us, the give us a real body language, they put words on our emotions, they invite us in their world. They are trustworthy people and we are very grateful for the artistic projects we built together.
A.I : Is your participation to the Olympic Games in Sochi still subjected to your international results this year and in the early season 2013/2014, or do you, from now on, feel comforted in your chances to get on the podium ?
Fabian : To date, our participation in Sochi isn’t subjected to anything. We take years one at a time and even if we are very confident about the forthcoming season, we don’t know what the future has in store for us. In any case, our craving to go there and to win a medal is clearly more present in our minds than it was in the past years.
A.I. : Beyond Sochi, do you have plans ? Something specific ? Do you have common projects, like doing shows or will you go your separate ways ? Inside or outside figure skating ? Or maybe a mixing of all this…
Nathalie : After quitting competitive skating, we’ll do shows for a few months. Personally, I would like to make myself a « normal » life : working for a sport institution or firm, like CNSOF [ED : Comité National Olympique et Sportif Français - French National Olympic Committee] for instance. Even if we are preparing our career changes, they still are medium-term plans. The most important for both of us is to end our skating career with a flourish. We’ll think about what’s next when it’s time. What’s sure is that I will go back to Europe !
Fabian : I have absolutely no idea. For now, I’m focused on our goals. I’m not afraid of reconversion. But, everything in its own time.
Copyright© Jacque Tiegs
A.I. : Your coaches are from different ice dance schools, Russian for Anjelika, British and lyonnaise for Pasquale. You developed your own creativity and your own style, but do you feel closer to one of these schools ? Would you like people to talk about a Péchalat/Bourzat school one day ?
Fabian : I think our strength lies precisely in the fact we were able to combine the qualities of these different schools. Our maturity allowed us to bring the best out of it. A Péchalat/Bourzat school, not so sure… But if only the future of ice dance could become a bit less bland and dull, then, by leaving a Péchalat/Bourzat trademark, we’d have achieved something wonderful !
A.I. : You are asked to pick up the Short Dance for next season, what do you choose ? (We’re in the abstract, you two don’t have to choose the same)
Nathalie : I would very much like the Charleston and a good thing that is, I think it’s on the program for next year… Other than that, I love Folklore. It makes it possible to build varied programs, to broaden our artistic choices. If the compulsory dances were not to be included in the short program, I would really love to have the 80s or Hip Hop as a theme : for the whiff of fresh air !
Fabian : Personally, I’m confident enough in our experience to know that, whatever the Short Dance is, we will be able to make something very personal and upbeat out of it. After all, we already did it with the Polka this season ! It’s what I like with the SD : we do not choose, we have to adapt, it is an artistic challenge !
A.I. : This season, the Yankee Polka popped out of the hat. As the name implies, it’s an American dance by definition. Is it to be argumentative that you chose a French Can Can? Just kidding… Actually, the Yankee Polka is said to require very deep edges, lightness on the ice, energy and enthusiasm. That’s just right for you, isn’t it?
Nathalie : I don’t think we are argumentative, it’s just that we like to twist the themes to gain access to an artistic angle that will tally with us as best as possible, while staying within the rules. The Yankee Polka requires energy, enthusiasm and dexterity as opposed to deep edges [ED : Oops, Kate didn't do her homework properly...] It’s a light dance, very lively. We like « long » compulsory dances. A full lap and a lot of steps, a lot of changes in attitudes, and so on… Like with Tango Romantica or the Golden Waltz and this Polka ! It’s got nothing to do with last year Rumba.
AI : This French Can Can is rather like Moulin Rouge by French film director Renoir with Jean Gabin and Françoise Arnould, or like Luhrmann’s with Kidman and McGregor ? Or totally like Péchalat Bourzat ?
Nathalie : If we are to make a choice, our French Can Can is definitely more Jean Gabin than McGregor ! We like to be coherent, so when you choose to skate to a Parisian theme, it has to be 100% French. The American flavor, no thanks ! The day we skate to jazz or blues, we’ll go and see what Americans have to offer. But our theme is Paris, the Polka is joyful and vivacious and the Waltz by J. Dréjeac and H. Giraud, sung by Yves Montand (« Sous le Ciel de Paris ») brings on poetry and romanticism. Our costumes brings on authenticity even if they are modernized.
A.I. : For your Free Dance, you chose the Rolling Stones. Your medley is made of songs going from 1968 to 1981, hence covering the entire 70s. Is it a deliberate choice or was it just a matter of melodies ? Is it easy to make a medley of their songs ?
Nathalie : Yes, it’s a choice, once we had honed (i.e. defined what we wanted to do), our Stones project with Laurie Aiyvigan, our choreographer, we have selected pieces for their time then melody. It has not been easy : everything is great ! And they have a huge discography. We picked up what was the most workable on the ice, the ones that make us dance or put us in a « state » (like « Angie »). We have a Stones program based on groove and the Hippie years, with the spirit known to the Stones.
A.I. : I saw you training this summer and I felt you had moved up a notch, self-confidence-wise. I found your style even more flowing, you have even more presence, you look « easy » [on the ice] (even if we perfectly know it’s not !) What is it that gives you momentum? Is it because you’re sandwiched (if I may say so…) between some North-Americans who push and some others who are ahead but from now on beatable ?
Fabian : The difference today doesn’t only come from the fact we think the 2 firsts are beatable, it mainly comes from the fact we’re confident in our programs (both). We really love our themes now, as well as our choreographies, so feeling more at ease is natural. Moreover, this year and until the Olympics, we have chosen to skip all summer shows in order to be better prepared at the beginning of the season. Hard work always pays off. But beyond this, I think we have passed the hurdle in our technique which is much more consistent this year. Some people improve slowly but surely when others proceed by stages. We are lucky, we do both ! (laughs)
A.I. : You have switched clubs, going from Castres where you were members (and Lyon where you are practicing when you are in France) to the Français Volants ["Flying French"] in Paris. Can you tell us why ? To be a member at the rink [club] where you practice makes a difference ?
Nathalie : When we go back to France, we train in Lyon or in Paris-Bercy. These places haven’t changed since we emigrated. But we had only few occasions to go to Castres (it’s rather outlying). Regarding membership, it doesn’t matter as long as we have good relationships with the club and the coaches who welcome us from time to time. Changing club was our personal choice. Bercy offered us its support and we accepted : this club has a larger structure. We thank the club in Castres warmly, they meant good luck to us but we are very happy to be, today, members of the mythical Flying French Club !
Interview by Kate Royan and Mehdi Bouzzine for Annecy-Infosports/GoldenIce. 09/28/2012 ©
Translation by Kate Royan©