Choreography that inspires

February 22, 2014
By Ia Remmel (Pia)
Photos Ia Remmel, Irina Teterina (Attenais), Ludwig Welnicki (Joluskating)

A lot has happened since my talk with world famous choreographer David Wilson. He has created choreo for many top skaters, including Yuna Kim, his muse. At the Finlandia Trophy he appeared with Yuzuru Hanyu to the mens’ first training, much to my surprise. After Yuzuru’s brilliant victory I had a chance to speak with him a bit.. He began by explaining his reason for accompanying Yuzuru – it was because Brian Orser was with Javier Fernandez at the Japan Open.

Yuzuru Hanyu had a brilliant long program today and looked very strong. How did you prepare him for today’s performance? In the press conference after the short program he said that he didn’t feel very well?
Yuzuru has been training very hard since the spring and we worked hard on getting this program together. He was a little bit nervous at first and had to concentrate mentally to feel stronger. But it was good practice for him to compete here. It’s always scary to perform a new program for the first time.  It seems like a big mountain - you have to take the first step and then go step-by-step to get higher.

Could you tell us a little about Yuzuru’s programs? He kept his last year’s short program. Why did he want to continue with it?
First of all it’s because it works so well for him. He wasn’t able to perform it at Worlds up to his level but he loves it and we decided it’s the best program to use. He only had time to focus on one program, so keeping his short program allowed him to put most of his energy into preparing a new long. The Olympic season is shorter and more stressful. He did freshen up his short program a little by working with Jeff Buttle, who choreographed it.

But the long program is new and has a very interesting theme. Was it Yuzuru’s wish to skate to Romeo and Juliet?
It was definitely Yuzuru’s wish. He’d already used that theme before, two years ago. This time we also considered using the ballet music and Tchaikovsky version in addition to the movie version. We finally decided to use the Franco Zeffirelli movie version, Nino Rota music. He really had his heart set on it.

What do you think – why does he like that theme?
I think he’s a romantic and passionate person. He has seen the movie and is in love with its story. I also think he identifies with the Romeo character. He identifies with how Romeo felt desperate and gave his life for his passion. He feels the same way about his skating.  He gave his life for skating the same way Romeo gave his life for Juliet. It’s kind of a perfect fit for him.

Yuzuru has many unusual elements for a male skater, like the Ina Bauer, the Biellmann spin...
It’s so gorgeous how he does them! Yuzuru is a very elastic skater. Even the way he jumps seems to me to be very elastic. It’s exciting to watch and it’s exciting to work with him because his body is able to form great shapes. And he has a lot of artistic potential.

Please tell me a little bit about your other work, about your programs for Javier Fernandez, for instance. How did you choose the music for those programs; were they your idea or the skater’s wish?
I did a short program and a long program for Javi because he needed to change both. His long program with the “Harlem Nocturne” theme was my idea. Last year Charlie Chaplin was his idea. This year he didn’t know what to choose, so this is something I thought of using. It’s a piece of music I always loved, I remember Peter Gunn performing it when I was very young, in a show. I loved the character and I thought it would be good for Javi. By the way, “Harlem Nocturne” is something I remembered from Brian Orser, because Brian skated to that one too. So it’s like he has a little bit of me, a little bit of Brian and a lot of Javier. It’s kind of a great team effort.
And I did a new program for Patrick Chan also, his long program! I’m very excited about this program too.  One thing I love is that any of the three boys I work with – any of them could win, Patrick or Javi or Yuzuru. I just hope they’ll skate really well and let the judges decide. They’re all very different and so exciting to watch. Artistically, their personalities, everything is different but they’re all exciting!

How is Yuna Kim doing now?
She has a little bit of a chronic problem with her foot. She’s had the same problem before and she decided to stop jumping for a while. She was training really well, performing clean programs at practice, and then the problems kind of resurfaced. Nothing serious but she has to be careful.

What do you think about Evgeni Plushenko’s comeback?
It’s very admirable because, you know, the older you get, the harder it is to keep your body healthy. Training is very strenuous. Also, the competitive edge is something that’s harder to hold on to. You have experience, which gives you confidence. Plushenko is such a consistent performer. He has a strong mental capacity and a very strong focus. So – I think it’s great if he tries to continue. It inspires the young boys to try harder.
The more great skating you have, the better everyone gets. So I think it’s good to have many, many strong competitors, because it’s good for the sport. The younger skaters at lower levels who are making their way to the top have many people to overtake.
We had Javier one year before Yuzu arrived. When Yuzu came, Javi improved because they train together. They’re very different people but they inspire each other when they’re together. It’s the same thing with competition, especially for boys; boys and men thrive in competition since men like to compete. Girls are a little different, they have to be more careful. But I think the best woman skaters, like Yuna, love to compete too. And Yuna works very, very hard; she is the most dedicated I’ve ever seen! And the way she trains her routines – it’s very consistent. She really puts a lot of spirit into her training.

That’s why she accomplished so much!
I think so! Of course she’s very talented but all of the top skaters are very talented. Sometimes the person who wins isn’t the most talented but the one who prepares the most, especially during an Olympic year.

With regards to the younger choreographers, who is interesting or promising in your opinion?
I’m so proud of Jeff Buttle. I still do choreography for Jeff when he performs but now he is creating choreography for other skaters. He has done pieces for both Patrick Chan and Yuzuru, and also some younger kids. His choreography is fantastic! He’s so talented. He choreographed the whole “Stars on Ice” show, the group numbers. He performed in the show as well, and he’s just amazingly talented. For me it’s enjoyable to see other people’s work when it’s really good. It’s inspiring.

Aside from Jeffrey Buttle, other skaters such as StĂ©phane Lambiel are doing choreography. What do you think about StĂ©phane’s works?
Yes, StĂ©phane is the other one who has magnificent talent. I know StĂ©phane very well since he worked with Yuna’s “All that Skate” shows during the last seven years. I’ve never choreographed for StĂ©phane as a soloist but I had him in that show and he’s wonderful. He is a genius talent! This is the next generation; they have so much to share.

The “All That Skate” show is one of the most amazing shows in the world, I like it so much! How is it to work with that show? Do you always come up with the whole concept? How does it feel to present it to the explosive Korean audience?
It’s so much fun! In Korea there’s a very special situation right now because of Yuna’s popularity. The level of excitement when she skates is unbelievable. After the show when we’re going to the bus there are hundreds and hundreds of fans gathered around the bus to see their idols. A very big audience, screaming, applauding, thousands of glowsticks in the darkness. But they appreciate all the skaters, not only Yuna.
Over the years we’ve had many different skaters. Kiira has participated more than once. They absolutely love Kiira! They love her blonde beauty and she’s also a strong jumper. We also had professional skaters like Kurt Browning and Ilia Kulik. Legends like Michelle Kwan, Katia Gordeeva, Alexey Yagudin, and Irina Slutskaya. All the skaters want to come back once they’ve performed in our show. They can never forget their wonderful experience. Ilia Kulik, when he first came - he got off the ice after his solo and was like: ah, it’s so amazing! He didn’t want to leave the ice. He was bowing for like ten minutes! They put a lot of money into the production to make it so beautiful. All those big video screens, live music, live orchestra...
Last year we had the “Les Miserables” theme because of Yuna’s program. We had a live broadway musical in Korea and they were singing live. We had rock stars and K-pop stars. It’s always fun to put skaters together with other artists, it creates a special atmosphere.
For me it is always a little stressful because we only have two days for rehearsals.  I wish we had more time to prepare.

That theme fit very well and the group numbers are so beautiful!
We always try to make it completely different from the last show. We had Russian comedians once and we are always looking into ways to make it different than the last time.

I see Stéphane Lambiel is always in the cast.
StĂ©phane is the only skater we have had in every single show. I think he is Yuna’s favorite skater and the Korean audience appreciates him so much.  It’s amazing to have him in the cast and he’s very helpful to me too. He looks so good in all the group numbers, he gives 100 percent to every moment and I can’t imagine doing this show without StĂ©phane.





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