Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau: "Let's have fun! Let's be crazy!"
December 8, 2016
By Reut Golinsky
Photo © Julia Komarova, Reut Golinsky
This young Quebecois pair is already well known in the skating world and has accomplished quite a lot since they teamed up in November 2012. Having won the 2014 JGP Final and as the 2015 World Junior silver medalists, they skate in seniors for the second season and it is going to be their second Grand Prix Final, an achievement in itself.
We met with Julianne and Charlie in Moscow, during the Rostelecom Cup, after their less successful performance which landed them in fifth place, but they took this as a life lesson and were talking about moving on and working even harder. I hope that after reading this interview you will be charmed by this lovely pair, by their connection and joie de vivre, as much as I did.
Julianne, Charlie, I'm sorry this competition didn't go the way you expected.
Charlie: That's OK, it's part of the game.
Julianne: I think it was a good fight, and we've learned so much. Again. At Skate America (which they won - ed.) we've learned a lot, and here too. It was not perfect but we skated with our hearts, really like we were supposed to skate. But we had a couple of mistakes.
Charlie: Yesterday it was a bit of a shock for us to skate like we did because inside we were feeling quite well, but the elements were not there. So it was like a wakeup call to us: "What's happening?!"
Especially after Skate America...
Charlie: Yeah, exactly. We didn't have any expectations coming here, but, like I said, it was a shock and today we just focused on delivering our performance and skating with our heart like Julianne said.
Julianne: And I think it was what we did on the ice.
Which side by side jumps do you have? You also have Salchow, right?
Charlie: Salchow, toe and loop. In the short program we go for the loop because we're trying to reach the maximum amount of points, so this year we decided to gain some points in the side by side jumps.
What will be the points to work on towards your next competition?
Charlie: There are so many things!
Julianne: I think it's consistency. We were consistent the past two years. This year we had some trouble but we were adding new elements, so it's normal. But this is what we will work on, to be more consistent.
Charlie: And to get that we will need to work on our confidence, to be able to go on the ice with this feeling: "We know we can, we know our thing, the elements, the technique and everything, we just need to go for it!"
Which new elements did you add this season?
Julianne: The triple loop and the lifts are also different.
Charlie: We will probably also put triple toe-double toe-double toe in our next competition. We practice it at home like this, with three jumps, but for the Grand Prix events we decided to just put triple-double.
Are there any ultra-C elements you plan to add in the future, not specifically this season? Are you working on something already?
Charlie: This year, because of her injury, Julianne came back to the rink only in April so we didn't really have time to learn new elements. I was on the ice working on my jumps but we couldn't work on our pairs' elements when she was recovering.
Julianne: But in the future we will maybe work on the quad twist. And then a throw.
Charlie: Yes, maybe the twist before a throw. We were working a bit on a quad toe throw.
Tell me about your programs this season. I noticed that both last season and this season you chose very upbeat and energetic short programs. Is it because when it's shorter it's easier to make it fast? Or do you just feel like doing something like that?
Charlie: Just to be a bit different I think.
Julianne: Yeah, we want to bring something special. Also we're trying to choose the music which suits our personalities. And, of course, because it's shorter we can be really upbeat. It would be harder to do something like that for the long program. We would die! (laughs)
Charlie: It is upbeat, but we didn't choose it because of that. More because it's funny, so that we'll just have fun and smile.
(During recent Skate Canada Challenge event Julianne and Charlie announced that they return to their last season's "Cirque du Soleil" short program - ed.)
And your long program is to "Cinema Paradiso" and I know that you just used the soundtrack, it's not related to the film, but did you watch it?
Charlie: No. But everyone asks us about it and everyone is telling us that we should watch it.
Julianne: We should, but I think we want to create our own story. Of course, we can watch this movie but it won't bring anything new to this program.
So what was the story you wanted to tell in this program?
Julianne: It's hard to describe, it is a story about us, from the very beginning. But we kind of keep it secret...
You mean when you skate it you have in mind your own story which is private, which you want to keep to yourselves?
Charlie: Yes, and spectators can interpret it the way they want. But we have something in our mind that we try to express.
I noticed that you invite choreographers who are ice dancers - Shae-Lynn Bourne, Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon. Was it intentional, to make your programs more danceable and interesting?
Julianne: Yes, of course. But we didn't really choose them only because they are ice dancers, we liked their style and we think we can evolve with them. And also, working with them is always nice.
You also mentioned in one of your recent interviews that once a week you practice with ice dancers. How did this start?
Charlie: It started when we began working with Marie-France and Patrice on choreography, it's been three years now. We went to their rink and spent a lot of time there. And later we decided to continue going once a week to work with them. We have so much to learn about ice dance! I think if it can benefit our skating we should go for it and try to be more complete athletes.
So you come especially for this and stay for the whole day?
Julianne: Yeah, we go there and train for the whole day.
Also for the off ice, ballet lessons or things like that?
Julianne: No, we usually just do ice.
Charlie: But we do stroking exercises with the dancers. And sometimes we just switch partners to feel something different with a different person, just to learn to be aware of your partner.
It's your fourth year together. Richard Gauthier once mentioned in his interview that a pair needs at least three years to become a real pair. Do you agree?
Charlie: I think it depends. I don't think you can apply this rule to everyone. There are pairs who spend 24 hours a day together and there are pairs who skate together and as soon as the session is done they go home and don't talk to each other.
Julianne: It depends on the chemistry the pair has.
Charlie: For us, I think, the chemistry was born when we passed through rough times together, with Julianne's injury and with me, when my father died that year when we missed the junior Worlds (in 2014). All those things brought us closer. And this chemistry, we didn't really have to work on it.
I also noticed that during practices you always hold hands, almost all the time. In other pairs partners sometimes take their time, try things separately.
Charlie: Yeah, like you said sometimes people need their time but for us I think it's our time. We're skating this program together.
Julianne: And even at home it's the same, we're never doing things apart. We're always together.
Both: (smile) Almost.
And it's fun, it's not hard, you don't get tired of each other?
Both: No, no, no.
In one of the interviews you named "joy and connection" as the strong qualities of your team. And I agree. But I also wonder how someone can achieve or learn this, or should this come naturally?
Charlie: Like I said earlier, that connection we have we didn't really work on it, it just came naturally with what we went through. I don't think it's something you can force, you just have to be yourself and be open to the other. This way we can understand ourselves and understand that we want the same thing and all we do is towards the same goals.
Julianne: We don't have to force anything. That's why we're able to reproduce this feeling each time because that's our nature.
Charlie: And even here in the bad moment, in a less successful competition, we both understand that, yes, sometimes it happens and if we want to be at the top, we sometimes have to go down, to understand something, to take the positive [out of this].
And joy is coming from your characters? You're just positive and happy people?
Julianne: Yes (smiles).
You said that Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov are your idols. Why them and how did you come to learn about them? After all, they are a few generations away from you.
Julianne: There were a lot of people who said that we remind them of Gordeeva/Grinkov, the way we're moving on the ice, even that we look like them. That's why we started really checking their videos.
Charlie: Yes, we watched and we agreed that there was something special in how they interact with each other.
Julianne: And we were inspired by them.
When I was reading about you I also learned that you're the first pair at this level who participated and won the Grand Prix, in which both partners come from Quebec. Do you get any media attention now at home? Do you feel that it's important for Quebec that they have you?
Julianne: Of course, I think it's important for Quebec.
Charlie: You see, Quebec is in an unique situation as it's the only province in Canada which is French-speaking. It is a bit like a small circle. When there is someone from Quebec performing in any sport, people will always be proud of them. Anyone in Quebec, you can just ask him to name you anyone in any sport and he will know if there is any good Quebecois who performs in that sport. But if you ask him the same question about Canada, they might not know.
And if I ask about figure skating they will name you?
Charlie: Yes, probably. It's starting [to grow]. I would say maybe after the Olympics it will be bigger... Any athlete who goes to Olympics from Quebec, people know him.
Do you have a fan base, some local fan club?
Julianne: We have some fans but...
Charlie: It's not like passionate Japanese fans. (smiles) We receive gifts from Japanese fans but we don't receive any from those in Quebec.
When I was preparing for our talk I also found your official site which includes a blog, but with only one entry ... Talking about fans, more information could help you to gain more of them, you know.
Charlie: Basically this website was a school project for me. And in the definition of the project we needed to have a blog section as well, so I added it. But it's only in French; we probably should also do it in English.
Yes, you sure should! And which grade did you get for this project, by the way?
Julianne, you skated in singles and dropped it just recently; you were the Autumn Classic bronze medalist in 2014. Why did you continue for so long in both disciplines? It must have been difficult!
Julianne: Well, you never know, it's always hard to find a partner. And for pairs you need to be good in singles' elements too, so you keep trying to do singles and you're just more in shape than everyone. I think till that certain moment it's good to do both.
And you had a different coach?
Julianne: No, I had the same one (JosĂ©e Picard). She can teach ice dance, singles, and pairs!
Charlie: Yes, she coached Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz too, at some point.
Are there any styles or themes you would want to explore in the coming seasons? For example, tango?
Charlie: I don't have anything specific in mind.
Julianne: We're very open for anything.
Charlie: But I would like to have something different. I mean, you mentioned tango, and I know for sure that I don't want to do tango. I want to do something...
Charlie: Figure skating for so many years has been...
Julianne: ...a bit dry.
Charlie: So with the lyrics now it brings us more possibilities of expressing the music, the bigger variety of things we can do, so let's just find something new?
Talking about something new...this can be said about your gala programs. They are always super fun to watch!
Charlie: (smiles) Yeah, our costumes even more than the moves!
Both! How do you get inspiration for them?
Charlie: A lot of ideas come from our coach, she is...
Julianne: She is a powerhouse of ideas! She's got so many of them!
Charlie: She has this vision, she has something in her mind and she can see how she wants it.
Julianne: And she knows what people want, too. She's always giving us music she thinks we can be good at and that people will enjoy.
Charlie: And the funny side of us which we show in our short program, we can express even more in our gala numbers, because in gala numbers you can do anything. So let's do anything!
Julianne: Let's have fun! Let's be crazy!