Music on Ice 2014

December 21, 2014
By Reut Golinsky, Anna Bertoloni
Photos © Anna Bertoloni

What can be better than to start your year with a visit to charming Ticino for a magical ice show? We were there in 2012, in 2013. And, agog to see "Music on Ice" 2015 which will take place in Bellinzona, on January 9th and 10th, we recall last year's show "Paradiso" and the conversations we had with its participants. Some of them were recurring cast members and for some the experience was brand new.

Sabovč√≠k enjoys playing evil

Jozef Sabovč√≠k has partaken in all of the "Music on Ice" shows, so we started our talk by asking him what he loves about the shows and what was different in "Paradiso" as compared to other years. "It's just evolving, you know, it's growing bigger and bigger," he answered. "We're doing different themes every year, and I always play the bad guy, so that's good," he added laughing. "This year all this (shows around the rink) is heaven and I am a bad guy who came in and took heaven over. And then when Sarah (Meier) comes, with "The Prayer", basically I get banished out of heaven. That's the idea. I always love doing this show because I can meet up with my friends. I live in America now, so it's nice to come to Europe where I'm from and to see all of them."

In the course of preparation for the show the creators analyze what each skater can bring to the show, how his or her qualities can be used to their greatest potential and which of their exhibition pieces fit best, Laurent Tobel explained to us during the interview.  In the first half of the show Josef skated to "I'm Still Here" by Johnny Rzeznik. His second piece was by Jack White, from the soundtrack of "The Lone Ranger". "Sometimes Laurent tells me what he wants me to skate to," Jozef said. "Last year, for example, he asked me to skate to 'Highway to hell', because we were in hell. This year I gave him the stuff that I had and he liked it and put it in."

Just a few weeks before the show, the two-time European champion and 1984 Olympic bronze medalist celebrated his 50th birthday! We asked him to reveal the secret of his amazing longevity on the ice. Apparently this secret is very simple: you just need to love what you do. "If you like what you do, then you always want to keep doing it, as long as you stay healthy and you don't have any injuries. For me the biggest thing is not to take too much time off. If I take a break for too long, then everything hurts too much to come back, and I don't want to do it! (laughs). But it's really just about loving to skate. I really like to skate, so... that's why I'm still doing it!"

To keep in shape Jozef practices for about an hour, five times a week. And, of course, among other things he works on his "significant move", the backflip jump. "I do it one or two times. Sometimes I don't if my back is sore, but usually I try to do it every time [I practice], because, just like with any other jump, you have to practice it. It's not that hard."

What is the most important thing to know about this jump? "You can not decide not to do it, in the middle of it. If you go for it, you have to go!" he laughs. "Actually Stéphane (Lambiel) was asking me about it just yesterday! He asked for my advice, and I said: you have to learn with a gymnastics coach, he will teach you how to do it with the proper technique. And then when you can do it on the floor, if something goes wrong on the ice, you know how to save it."

The very first time Jozef, once nicknamed "Jumping Joe" for his amazing jumping ability, succeeded in performing the jump was in 1987, in Germany. "I always wanted to do it," he recalled, "ever since I saw Terry Kubicka doing it at the 1976 Olympics. So when I had the opportunity, I learned it. It was exciting! It took a long time for me [to perform it]. I could do a backflip on the floor for years, but because I was still competing, my federation never allowed me to do it. Once I was a professional and decided to do it on the ice, it took 20 minutes. I tried it maybe five times with somebody helping me with ropes, and then I went and jumped, and that was it!"

Lambiel takes a stroll down memory lane

Stéphane Lambiel is one of the regulars of the show and one of its main protagonists. By Laurent's request he revived his program to "Run" by Leona Lewis, which he choreographed for "Art on Ice" the previous year. "The music really gave me this idea of paradise," Laurent Tobel explained to us regarding his choice. "And Stéphane, as we all know, is a spectacular skater. The piece is long but he is able to keep the intensity growing, more and more. With our scenographies, lighting effects and his ability to keep 'crescendo' in this program it was amazing, [performed] right before the finale."

"To tell the truth this program was completely out of my repertoire already, I was done with it in the summer," Stéphane told us. "But Laurent asked me to perform it a long time ago, so I felt I couldn't say 'no', because I had enough time to prepare it for the show. And actually it was great to skate it again. When I was checking the video on YouTube, in order to remember my program... You see, when I skate the program, when I don't need to recall it, I usually don't watch my performances. So I don't really know what I'm doing. I know the program 'from the inside', but I don't know [how it looks] from the outside. It's always great to go back to a certain program and to have this process where you watch it and you say: 'Oh, my God, what am I doing?!' And then you have another chance to do it, maybe with a different feeling, knowing what you want to change, to improve. So I was excited to get ready for 'Run'. Even though I felt that it was the program from 2013 and we're in 2014," he added smiling.

His second program for the show was also one of his iconic oldies. He created it at the beginning of 2009, in one of the lowest moments of his career when, due to severe injury, he wasn't sure he'd be able to continue to skate. "Ne me quitte pas" were the words he addressed to the ice, his stage, which he begged not to leave him. "It's one of my favourite programs to skate," Stéphane revealed. "This program is special; I choreographed it with Salomé at a very particular moment in my career. And now with the distance it has a new feeling. I can really enjoy [skating it]. I love the song, I love the voice of Jacques Brel. I love the mood of this program. It feels very comfortable to express that number. Probably it's not the last time [I skate it] because I really like it.
I know it's always great to skate new programs but at times I love skating programs from the past. It feels special..."

Ovcharova, Lindholm/Kanervo learn from maitres

There were some new young faces among the cast and we used the opportunity to ask them about their impressions.

Finnish ice dancers Henna Lindholm and Ossi Kanervo joined the cast thanks to their coach, Maurizio Margaglio, the indispensable host of the show.   For "Music on Ice" they adapted their competitive programs of that season. "We've cut one part of the free dance, and in the short dance we cut the Finnstep part off because it would be impossible to do it on the small ice. So we've adjusted the programs a little bit, but we kept all the transitions, " Ossi explained.

Their free dance to "Cinema Paradiso" is "a story about two people in love who have a fight but in the end they find their love again." In their short dance, to "It Don't Mean a Thing" by Duke Ellington and "I've Got You Under My Skin" by Frank Sinatra, there isn't a specific story. It is more like "just a dance", "a party program". "We tried to show ballroom style dancing, tried to bring to the ice what they do in the [dance] competitions," Ossi said.

Although they're very young, it wasn't their first experience in a big figure skating production. "We have done some big shows in Finland. There was a charity gala with Kiira Korpi and Laura Lepistö and other Finnish stars. It was something like Finnish 'Stars on Ice', with live music and top artists, and us skating to their music."
But still it was a little bit different from other shows, Henna admitted. "First of all, the ice was much smaller. And also the audience was so close to us! I loved that. I thought it was very nice almost like being in direct contact with the audience." "And all the other skaters and artists, all these professional skaters... It was nice to see how they work in shows, what they do, given that for them it's an everyday job," Ossi added.

Both agreed that most of all they were impressed by Stéphane Lambiel's work. "He was amazing!" Ossi said. "Everybody was good," Henna continued. "But he is so... I don't know... he just makes you watch him! I don't know how, but he always catches your eye, just wow..."

Anna Ovcharova, 2013/2014 Swiss National champion, was already invited to Laurent Tobel's show at her home rink in Geneva but it was her first time in "Music on Ice" in Bellinzona.
"I really liked Bellinzona," she said. "We went to one of the castles; we had an amazing view from its walls. And then we went to the coffee shop where the forks they serve you are made of wood and half covered in chocolate, it was very tasty and very unusual. We also had a walk around the city center, saw the cathedral, everything was very beautiful."

Anna prepared two new programs especially for the show. Laurent Tobel asked her to skate to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and she choreographed this number with the help from her coach, Peter Grütter. ¬† "Usually I don't skate to such monotonic pieces, so it was really hard for me. At the beginning I was upset, because I thought I wouldn't be able to pull this program off, but Mr. Grütter, as usual, inspired me. He helped me, said that there was no rush, that I need to calm down, he gave me some ideas where [in the program] I could do each element. And while here Stéphane added some small beautiful details as well."

For her second program Laurent Tobel gave Anna a choice. "I always felt some kind of special connection to Edith Piaf," Anna explained. "So when Laurent called me and asked me to choose between Marilyn Monroe and Edith Piaf, I answered immediately, without thinking: 'Edith Piaf!' It took me quite a long time to decide which of her songs to use, I have so many favorites, in the end I settled upon "Padam Padam" and "Milord". Pasha Ignatenko, a skater from Belarus, helped me to cut the music, he does it really well. And I choreographed this number by myself. I was on vacation in Obninsk, Russia, and my father booked ice time for me at the rink. I was alone from eleven at night till midnight, nobody was there. I put on the music and the program just created itself. My mom was watching me and correcting: 'Edith Piaf would have never moved like this.'   Of course, I also saw many videos of Piaf too, but the hardest thing was that she was almost always static, she would rarely gesture.
Mr. Grütter really loved this program. At first he was surprised, 'You really did it on your own?' he asked, sounding a bit skeptical."

Hell, heaven... What's next?

For the fifth consecutive year, "Music on Ice" will transform the Bellinzona ice rink into a theater of art and sport. After the celestial visions of "Paradiso", this time the star packed cast of Laurent Tobel Entertainment will give new life to a mountain myth, a Ladin legend which has been retold and shared among communities of the Alpine region - "The Chronicles of a Little Sunshine".  

This is the story of  a tourist who gets lost in the woods on his way home. The fear, the strange noises and the icy cold of a night in the mountains prompt him to desperately look for help. He finds a small hut, hidden among the trees and inhabited by a mysterious character who, in exchange for his hospitality, proposes that the tourist get carried away to a fantasy world... and to learn about the life of the Daughter of the Sun.

Stéphane Lambiel, Sarah Meier, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, Samuel Contesti, Jozef Sabovč√≠k, Elena Leonova and Andrej Khvalko, Henna Lindholm and Ossi Kanervo, Anna Ovcharova, and a circus performer, equilibrist Masha Dimitri will tell us a fairy tale where love, light and shadow interweave while dramatically coloring the lives of the characters involved.

For more information and tickets, please, check "Music on Ice" official site.

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