Stars on Ice – a report from the French tour,
April 4-27, 2014

October 3, 2014
By Oxana Shkrebtienko
Photos © LMDJ

The French public had been waiting for this event for several years. The Post-Olympic tour was held with support from the French federation. It made stops in 21 cities and lasted almost a month. Big stars like Brian Joubert, Nathalie Péchalat / Fabian Bourzat, Florent Amodio, Vanessa James / Morgan Cipres, Maé-Bérénice Méité and many others were invited to participate in the tour.

Launched on April 4 in the city of Colmar, the tour made its way through Epernay, Poitiers, Amiens, Boulogne and, by tradition, ended in Tours on April 27. For local clubs and figure skating fans it was a unique opportunity to meet their favorite skaters, idols of thousands. For the cast it was an opportunity to communicate with the public, have pictures taken with fans and skaters, and to give master classes for the younger generation skaters. When the skaters arrived at the ice rinks, a joyful buzzing started. Excited kids learned skating skill from the champions, and young athletes of local clubs prepared for the performance that opened the show in each city. In the evening, a festive atmosphere captured the entire city. Whole families came to watch the show, and there was hardly an empty seat in the rink.

Here's what the tour director Gilles Beyer had to say:

What was the idea of this tour?

Gilles: The main idea was to create a gala with active skaters. The French federation is the only federation that supports such a tour. I know of many shows in France and other countries, but ours is the only show where you can see only skaters on the ice.

You visited so many cities; every day there was a new gala in a different city. Was it not exhausting?

Gilles: Yes, the schedule was hard. But in each city during the tour the skaters met with local people. And the skaters were very close to the audience. There was an autograph session at every show, where fans could get an autograph from their favorite skater and take a photo with him/her. It brought a lot of positive energy to both skaters and fans.

And the skaters taught children at local clubs as well?

Gilles : Exactly. In each city the skaters held master classes with local students. That helps the popularity of figure skating as a sport.

In all cities, members of the team held these master classes for children before the gala. The skaters taught the kids technique, and shared some of their skating experiences. Of course the skaters also received the wonderful experience of being trainers.

The first 15 minutes of each show were reserved for performances by local students. Those were very important and exciting minutes for the young skaters; they were skating on the same ice as the champions, and it was necessary for them to produce an appropriate performance!

Lenaelle Gilleron-Gorry opened the show of champions with her exhibition program to the moving lyrics of I will always love you, sung by Whitney Houston.

Lenaelle shared her impressions of the tour with us:

“I had a lucky chance to be part of the tour. I was the youngest one on the team, so I learned a lot. There was a good atmosphere here and everything went so well. I am very happy to have participated in the show.”

Ice dancers Pernelle Carron / Lloyd Jones continued the show with a fun program to the soundtrack of The Great Gatsby. They showed their best-known trick where Lloyd flips Pernelle around his head. This was the final season of their eligible careers as this couple has decided to go professional. They sure have something to please the audience with in this new role!

Gabriella Papadakis / Guillaume Cizeron performed a beautiful show number to Hey You by Pink Floyd. This was prepared especially for their first season as seniors. And after the retirement of the leaders (the both Nathalie & Fabian and Pernelle & Lloyd), Gabriella and Guillaume suddenly became the number one French ice dance team. They commented:

“We did not actually expect this role right now. But of course, it is a big responsibility. We need to work harder to meet expectations.”

Maé-Bérénice Méité acted in her usual manner, teasing and flirting with the audience to Burlesque (Christina Aguilera) and earned a lot of applause. Maé is deservedly loved by the French public and she always tries to keep this support with worthy performances at international competitions. This is what she had to say:

How did you like the tour?

Maé : It is a great idea to have such a big tour in France! I liked and enjoyed it very much.

What are your comments on last season and your plans for next season?

Maé: Last season was long and hard. But it was my first Olympic experience, one I'd be happy to repeat, because it brings extraordinary, exceptional feelings. I'm happy I have it! I have no particular plans for next season at the moment.

Update: Maé will start the new season this weekend, at the Master's in Orleans.

Chafik Besseghier amazed everybody with his brilliant performance at the last World Championships and secured, against all expectations, two spots for France for next year. Chafik performed his fabulous number to Heart Cry by Drehz, in which he glides on his head in the middle of the program. He wears a knitted hat while doing it, and this is a famous and popular trick that always causes a storm of applause.

Every evening you and Florent jumped quads. Did you make a bet with Florent about it?

Chafik: No, it was not a competition, although the whole team watched us jump those quads day after day. But we did not keep count; we did it for fun without having a bet. Also, it's kind of practice, it helps to keep a high level between competitions. During the tour we just enjoyed and received a lot of positive energy from the French people, as well as from our team mates. Such experience helps us feel the team spirit and develop good relationships with each other. I liked it very much!

Vanessa James / Morgan Cipres skated very beautifully to Perez Prado’s Historia de un Amor. But at the same time this program was rich in difficult pair elements; this couple has noticeably progressed during recent seasons. And continuing the work to improve their levels, they decided to take advantage of the success and experience of the Russian figure skating school, and started training with Stanislav Morozov in Moscow during the summer.

What are your plans for the upcoming season?

Vanessa: We would like to keep our free program but make a new short. We want to grow as a pair.

What do you think about the competition within the team with new pair Aljona Savchenko / Bruno Massot?

Vanessa: They have not decided if they will skate for France or Germany. But even if they decide for France, we are still the leaders of the French team and it’ll be the same for us – we will compete with Bruno and Daria or with Bruno and Aljona. We'll do our job, the way we always do it, and we’ll try to win!

Update: Aljona and Bruno will skate for Germany. He just signed a contract with the German federation.

Florent Amodio surprised the audience with a sudden change of his habitual eccentric style. He now appeared before the French audience in the image of a sad and pensive lyrical hero, set to the emotional music Say Something sung by Christina Aguilera. Apparently, the less than successful last season influenced Florent’s choice of theme for the show. Not concentrating our attention to this, we asked Florent some questions:

How will you keep the famous team spirit of the French team after the generation change next season?

Florent: I'm sure Nathalie, Fabian and Brian will stay close to us; they will keep focusing on us and take care of the younger generation. Yes, we have been a good team and very good friends. We have known each other since we were 5 years old and it has been amazing to share this team spirit with Brian, Nathalie and Fabian! It is our dream to keep team France at a high level. And of course, we want to keep the team spirit as well. The tour helped us a lot with that; we became like a family! We all lived together; 20 days in the same rooms, in the same bus. We had the same practice and shared the same fun. All we need now is to win some medals to prove we are a great team!

For Brian, Nathalie and Fabian this tour was a kind of farewell, and the last time they skated together as members of the national team. Nathalie and Fabian had chosen to perform their Olympic free dance The Little Prince. This became an audience favorite. In their Dirty Dancing exhibition number (Time of my life by the Black Eyed Peas), Nathalie put on the little black dress from the Cabaret short dance, bringing a light erotic nuance into their performance. The audience appreciated Nathalie’s idea and greeted the couple with loud cheers. To our question about their plan after retiring from the sport, Nathalie answered:

“We are planning several shows in Japan and in France. Then we'll have some vacation. After this, Fabian plans to coach in Detroit with Igor Shpilband and I will stay in Paris. But I do not know yet what I will do. I want to find something relevant to my business degree and my sports career; it’s a matter of finding the right job. I'd like to stay in figure skating, maybe work in the federation or become a judge or a technical specialist. So, I will continue with skating, but from the other side of the boards.”

Brian created two new programs specifically for the tour. The first was to Sur ma peau from the musical 1789: Les Amants de la Bastille. In this lyrical composition Brian, as the hero of the song, lived out his love story on the ice. It was full of hope and desperation. In the second act Brian skated with his usual energetic, take-your-breath-away manner, that has conquered the hearts of countless women throughout the world. To the well-known song I gotta feeling by the Black Eyed Peas, Brian suddenly appeared right on the tribune, shamelessly flirting with the audience. They cheered him on with a standing ovation after such a "hot" performance. The French adore their great champion and paid tribute to his outstanding career. Brian shared with us his impressions of this event:

“During the spring I was supposed to skate in a Russian tour with Evgeny Pluchenko. I like very much to skate in Russia, but the tour was cancelled. So, the situation gave me no choice but to do the French tour. But it was, as we say, "a quelque chose malheur est bon" (a blessing in disguise). Now I'm very happy I did this tour, we've missed it for the last years in France. The show was a big success, and it worked perfectly for me. Maybe I will do it next year too. I was surprised at the response of the audience; they loved it! Of course, I felt tired at the end of the tour, but when I stepped onto the ice, I just enjoyed skating and connecting with the audience.”

At the end of the show, all the skaters came on the ice, one after another. They stood in a circle of fire while Allumer le Feu by Johnny Halliday played. This traditional fiery finale expressed the essence of the bright, beautiful and original French team. We hope the next generation skaters will carry on in the same spirit, and progress in the new season so we can continue watching this friendly and united team.

Didier Gailhaguet, president of the French federation said:

“The tour was quite successful, and we hope to do it again next year. It's just a question of economy. We need to figure out if our finances allow us to advertise more. Now, for the first time after a long break, we started up the tour again, and we want to be sure we didn’t lose money. So we'll see.”

“Stars sur glace” was a wonderful tour that crossed France with triumphant success. We hope it will become a nice tradition for team France to end each season with a tour. See you next year, Les Bleus!

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