Piano-Skating, emotional communication without a single word - meet Romain Gazave!

Part II

by Helga Dobor
& Mireille Geurts
Photos © Absolute Skating

'Figure skating Fluff'

If it were completely your choice, what kind of music would you use?
The restrictions are not so much the music, it depends on the way to use the act to tell a story...But I would probably use a big classical piece for the piano part, like Rachmaninov or for example the 11th Etude by Chopin, opus 25. But there are so many more pieces... I would love to be able to put a mix of all styles of music in existence in my act once, just to show the evolution of music and the link between all the different styles, and then do the same with the skating part! That would be fun! But it would require a lot of work as well, and take a very big show to make it possible for me to present it! (Collins, IMG, do you hear me??? -laughs)

How long does it usually take to put a new program together?
It doesn’t take so long. What takes the most time is getting the piano part to work, mostly because of the technical issues. The “delay” I mentioned earlier makes it necessary for me to know the piano piece that I will play perfectly, and be able to play it after skating... I need to be really fit and ready for the show to pull it off!

Do you feel pressure before performances?
Of course there’s a bit of pressure, but mostly because of the audience, so it’s good pressure.
And we can experience this sensation of performing that we miss so much when we stop competing. We skate for ourselves and the audience first of all, that’s the best part of it and the most fun. And we can really develop our artistic styles. (Which some eligible skaters also need sometimes.) I’d advice anyone who stops competing to try professional skating!

Romain, Isa and her twin


Is it easier to become friends at shows than in competitions?
Yes, of course! There is less of that competitive spirit (even if there’s still some jealousy sometimes). But we all stopped competing so...

Describe your feelings when you're out there performing and the audience is enthusiastic!
It’s just incredible, seriously it’s very hard to describe!

What do you feel is your greatest strength in skating?
When I still competed it was the artistic expression. Now, in the professional shows, I guess it would be my reliability in the triple jumps, and a few different tricks. I’m quite consistent.

Do you still follow the eligible skating of today?
Yes, as much as I can.

Who are your favorite skaters?
Stéphane Lambiel; amazing spins, good artistry and he’s improved a lot on the jumps. Even if I’m French, I was really happy that he won this year! Which automatically gets me to Brian. Brian is…he definitely has something, but I don’t think he’s found his real style yet. He’s such a good competitor and hard worker, and I‘m sure he’ll keep progressing!


Then of course there’s Plushenko, he’s a great skater and I especially loved his program the first time he won Worlds back in 2001, he really impressed me then! (But I remain a fan of Yagudin; his short program "Winter" by Bond is one of the best I’ve ever seen!) And I quite like the 2 new Americans (Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir) as well as the Canadian Buttle! I also loved what Stanick did, it was different and very nice! But he’s not selected to the World team anymore …
For the ladies, I really like Sasha Cohen, and can’t wait for her to perform at her best! She’s still too unstable. Slutskaya’s an amazing jumper and really deserved the gold this year, but I did find her program a bit less interesting, artistically speaking, than what she used to do. Of course I admire Michelle Kwan for her long career, she’s a real champion! I also like Julia Sebestyen, and I was so happy when she won the Europeans last year.
For the pairs, Totmianina/Marinin are on top of my list and the two Chinese pairs are getting more and more interesting too.
In dance, Navka/ Kostomarov, and of course Isabelle and Olivier. They are different and very much have their own style, I love that. And I love Denkova/ Stavisky, and even if they had a bad season and had a less good freedance, they remain an amazingly creative team. And in exhibitions they’re especially amazing, really! And, what I hope to be the future of ice dancing, the French couple Pechalat/Bourzat, their “Cats” program is so interesting! :)

Your music is a mix of classical and modern music. This cross-over style is very popular, but also hard. The audience likes it very much, but it's highly criticized by the performers of both sides (classical and modern). What do you think of it?
The best classical piano players or musicians have an open mind, and I think that if this is well done... why not? It is a problem of evolution! These kind of mixes are very important for me!

Did you also get criticized for it?
Some of my "classical friends" really like what I do... it depends, sometimes yes. But this is a good sign, no? I just try to do what I feel and to be honest with myself. If I listened to the others, I would never have been able to present this act. I like people with an open mind. To be creative, we must all be very open and interested in a lot of things other than our own specialty. If not, most of the time, all you’ll get is a bad copy of something already existing! And to be curious is important! When we get to know what we don't like, it also helps to know what we really love!

When does “Hot Ice!” end and what do you plan to do next?
I finish my contract on the 5th of November this year. If I sign for another year of “Hot Ice!”, I’ll be available to do some shows or exhibitions between November and March 2006. If not, I’ll be free and will work for another company. I don’t know much yet, but I am in touch with a lot of important producers about this winter! Nothing definite yet for sure.

What do you think you'll be doing ten years down the road?
I might be a director and choreographer (and perhaps musician) of a show. A very creative show mixing a lot of different things and specialties, a bit like Cirque du Soleil did at first, that was my child’s dream and my goal once I will stop performing.
I want to stay in touch with skating but most of all with the "entertainment world".

Ok, so we can skip the question if you want to choreograph. You already did some in the past too, right?
Right. I did two exhibition numbers for Vanessa Gusmeroli and for some very young French national competitors (12- 13 year olds.) I love to choreograph for others, and sometimes I feel that I do it better than for myself! Or less bad! - laughs

Overall, what is your worst skating memory? And your best?
The worst was when I was 10, and everybody told my parents that I’d never be able to compete on a national level because I wasn't good enough, and I was too old to hope to improve. The best was 6 years later, when I became the French National junior silver medalist (and a French team member) and most of the coaches who didn't believe in me at first, asked me to join their team. That was an amazing revenge! So you see, with passion, a lot of things are possible!

Are there any skaters you’d like to work with?
BROWNING! YAGUDIN! Whenever they want, wherever they want!

Performers usually bring their own instrument to performances. This is easy with a violin or a guitar, but what about a piano (on ice nonetheless)?
Do you want a technical answer or…?

Or what?
You can always bring your piano in your head if you want!

Lol...and the technical one?
Ok, for just one or two galas we find a piano provider close to the place of performance. For a longer tour, we can bring it with us in a truck. Another option is a digital action keyboard, (a digital piano with action keys, system close to the touch of a real piano) but honestly, I prefer acoustic!

'Curiosa killed the Cat'

What was the last good movie you saw?
Wow, I’m a movie freak so this is hard to answer. If you mean the last really, really good one, like one of my favorites, it would have to be "Amelie Poulain". Do you know it? If not "Fight Club", that is a more famous one.

And the last good book you read?
“The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown.

How would you feel if you had to live without:
- your skates? Like missing a part of my body....
- sports? music would compensate
- music? I wouldn't live....I would merely exist.
- credit card? It would honestly be very hard, but doable. (It already happened to me!)
- computer? wow, very poorly!
- friends? It would only be possible with a real love ;)
- dreams? like a very sad person....:(
Which would be the worst?
It’s a hard choice between music and dreams, but I’ll go with dreams, because we can dream about music.

Please associate with one or two words:
Skating is: amazing feeling
Family is: important
Friends are: everything! ;)
Money: only a means
Sport: a drug! lol
Love: passion and fusion - Kelly!
Peace: music
Belief: wow, vital and dangerous at the same time

What gives you more joy in life than anything else?
Wow! To be able to really touch someone emotionally and make him or her dream for a while, escaping the "real life", by performing the piano or skating, by expressing myself; emotional communication without a single word...

Don't forget to take a look into Romains personal photo-album of German SOI 2003!

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