Miki Ando: "My dream was to become a coach"┬á
Swedish skating fans who attended Stockholm Ice this year got a chance to see one of the skaters who recently decided to return to competition: Miki Ando of Japan.
A lot has happen to Miki since she made her first appearance on Swedish ice in the 2003 Junior Grand Prix Final in Malmö. She won there of course, and continued on, as we all know, to a successful career in elite skating. Now Miki is a two time world champion, but it is not only the competitive future we want to talk about. There's the charity event we heard she was deeply involved in and also produced. The show was held in Japan earlier this year. We had a chat during Stockholm Ice about the process of making the show, as well as about Miki's thoughts about what's to come.
Is this your first time in Stockholm?
Well, I think so, but I am not sure, perhaps I have been here for some Junior Grand Prix competition.
Let's talk about your own show in Japan earlier this year.
It was actually not a show; it was a charity event on March 11th, one year after the earth quake and tsunami. The charity took place in Shinyokohama Skate Center in Yokohama. It is still very hard for the victims to have a normal life and feel good. Some of them are of course smiling; they try to be happy and strong but it is sad. It is a reminder of what happened.
Did you come up with this idea for the charity by yourself, and did you ask skaters you know to join?
Yes, it was my idea. First of all we could not have any competing skaters because the World Championships were too close to the event. The second reason why I asked those skaters from Japan and other countries was I know they have a heart. I mean, it is not a show, it comes from our hearts, our wanting to help, and together we can do this. It wasn't my show or even a show; I just asked the skaters if they felt like helping out. All the money went to children who lost their parents. I don't want the dreams you have as a child for the future to be broken; these children need help. I don't know how it feels to lose your home and not have a normal life, but I lost my father when I was 9 years old, so I know how it feels to lose a family member in an accident; how sad you get and that you can't be strong right away. So I feel strongly about this charity. I felt that is was a good cause. And I could sense the warmth from the audience too, who had come to donate.
It is something very beautiful you have done!
It is not anything special; I just did what I felt I had to do.
You made some of the choreography and even the costume design?
Well, I made the choreography just for the first half of the show. I did not want it to be like it normally is, with the skaters doing their own numbers, so we created a story. It was like a ballet where the music never stops. Me and my ballet coach from Japan came up with a story about nature, like water, tsunami water and the Japanese skaters portrayed either the moon, wind or flowers. In the beginning I am alone; I lost everything, a sad, lonely night. Then the skaters try to create a happy feeling being together, and to keep being strong. In the end we say we are never alone. I just wanted this to be a message to the children: don't be afraid to go forward because we are never alone. We support each other, that was the meaning of the show. About the costumes, I just drew some sketches and sent to my Japanese dressmakers and they made them for free. It was not a big event and I wanted expenses to be kept down so the children would get as much as possible of the proceeds.
Would you do it again?
Yes, I would like to, and I hope I can. We need something like this for at least 10 years, since it'll take that much time to recover from the tsunami.
What else have you been up to?
Well, mostly shows all over the world, like the Japanese Stars On Ice, Art on Ice and also a Disson show: Love on ice.
You also modeled a wedding dress worth half a million us dollars? How did that feel?
Well, aah, (smiles) it was ok. The dress was very heavy; it had 3000 pearls and was made by Yumi Katsura, a Japanese designer. I understand better now how much love people are willing to put into their wedding.
The future, what about it? You are in great shape!
No, not really, but I have to be in good shape if I want to come back to competition. But I don't train as I should, I practice whenever I want. Of course before a show I try to be on the ice every day, but it is so hard to get private ice time in Japan since ice hockey gets most of it.
Japanese hockey? We did not realize it was big there! It is very big in Sweden…
We are skating from 1 until 3 in the morning. The hockey players train after the figure skating and I get my time after the hockey.
Did you ever make your own choreography?
Not for this kind of big show like Stockholm Ice. One of my numbers, the one to live music was done by Stéphane Lambiel. The other number by Nikolai Morozov. Stéphane skates so differently from others. I went to Switzerland for 2 days and we made the choreography.
Stéphane had this to say about it:
For me it was a great pleasure to give Miki some fragrance for her program to "O Mio Babbino Caro". She came to Switzerland and we had a great time together. She is very talented and knows what she wants, and so do I. It was really good work, the 2 days were very intense and we found ourselves during the days we were together. Miki has this passion in her skating, she puts lots of emotion into it, and she is very dramatic. I really love this kind of skating. The main character in Mio, the girl, goes to her father and asks him to please give her money so she can buy the ring for her wedding. But the father is dying so she will get the money anyway, but she is asking just to be sure it is ok. I knew the story from before. It is dramatic and comic at the same time, so I wanted her to act this crazy girl who wants this relationship and she is really desperate. That is what I brought to Miki. We got the music from Art on Ice because of the artists who would sing at Stockholm Ice. I love them; they are both great.
Back to Miki:
As Stéphane said, Miki, you are a very expressive skater! I loved you Black Swan program, it really moved me…
The Black Swan, oh, that is such a long program to skate! It is 5 minutes long so I am very tired afterwards. But thank you! I am not really a classic skater, and I am not flexible like the black swan in the ballet.
But you have the expressions of the Black Swan.
Yes, because I saw the movie. By the way, I used to hate skating in shows but I don't anymore. My dream was to skate in Art on Ice. It is the number one show right now.
What about next season?
I have not decided yet, but if I try but not feel ready to compete by the Grand Prix season, I might not skate. I will try and make a short and a free program just in case. If I don't compete I will still do shows and try to help the Japanese kids.
Can you see yourself being a coach in the future?
I never had a dream to be an Olympic or world champion. My dream was to become a coach, that was my first dream.
With all your experience, both technically and mentally, you will make an excellent coach. Many of the Swedish skaters coach little children, have you done that too?
In the US the skaters train kids too. It is really good that they can learn from top skaters who have been to Worlds and such. But in Japan you are not allowed to train while you are an amateur and earn money.
Well, we will see then if you will be on or off the ice in the kiss and cry!
Oh, but I want to skate too at the same time, for as long as I can. The skating life is short though and I want to have a normal life too.
What do you do then when you are not skating?
I go for a coffee break with friends, go out shopping or when I have a boyfriend I go out with him. But it is so hard since it is a different culture. In the US they don't say anything if you take time to go out. In Japan you have to practice, practice, practice…
You have lived and trained in the US, but where do you live now?
I live in Japan now, but I travel a lot. Like I went to Switzerland to make new programs for 2 days. I also went back to the US to pack up my stuff from the apartment and I had a show in Japan and a meeting and a TV shooting, so I am not home so much.
Well, good luck, Miki, in whatever you decide to do and whatever life will bring you!