St├ęphane Lambiel: "I'm a Saltimbanc, I'm like a gypsy and I love it"


February 15, 2011
By Nadin Vernon
Photo © EMJO, Nadin Vernon

Two-time World Champion Stéphane Lambiel once again showed us his Art on Ice in Zürich this weekend and I caught up with him to talk about new programs, his current lifestyle and the deeper meanings of doing laundry.

Congratulations on the amazing shows so far, Stéphane. How does it feel to skate here in front of your home crowd again?

You know, this afternoon I asked myself how it would be possible for me to skate because I was tired but then when I'm on the ice, I just go for it. It's great, I don't even have to push myself, as soon as the music starts I'm there and the energy is there. Even tonight despite it being the second show, it was the same feeling. I was so tired when I came here but the live music makes me so into it. I'm very concentrated on what I'm doing that I don't even think about being tired or in pain, happy, or not happy, nothing - it's just the performance. Just the time I'm on the ice and at the end, I'm like ‘Wow', it feels so good. I was saying to Salomé after my performance that it's such a great feeling to skate and to be able to do what you want to do and show the crowd what you can do. And she said, ‘yes, I remember that feeling, you have to enjoy it'.

Art on Ice always seems like a vehicle for you to really have a good time, and this year you seem to be even more into it.

It's really really special, even when we are here with the orchestra, the musicians and everybody, I see that there is a good energy between us and when I'm on the ice, I can feel the orchestra vibrating with me. And that makes me want to go for it.

What made you choose Bring Me To Life?

Oliver [Höner] told me that I would skate to one piece each by Katherine [Jenkins] and Donna [Summer] and I was listening to all the songs and it was really hard because I really love lyrical songs and Katherine has so many of them, like for example The Prayer that Sarah skated to, it's a beautiful song. I knew that I had to do a Donna Summer piece, so I wanted to do something more dramatic to have a contrast between very disco, very happy, funky music and this.

And who did the choreography?

We did them together with Salomé, both numbers. And Last Dance was really special because I immediately chose this and told Oliver that I wanted to skate to this piece. So he said it would be ok, but then called me a few weeks later to say that it was not going to be possible because Donna was doing this as an encore. So he asked me to choose another song and I was listening to all the other songs but I was so sad because it was really my favourite one and the best song for me. So I spoke to Oliver again and he said we'd have to think about the order and he suggested that it could be nice to have the finale, and have the crowd be all like ‘oh my god, we've only seen Stéphane once in the show, it's so sad', and then as a big surprise after the finale, I come on again – like the cherry on the cake. He said it would be a big responsibility to end the show, but that he trusts me. And then we worked with Salomé on the choreography and we even made a part for when the skaters all come back on the ice and it all just came together really nicely. I was very happy that I could use the piece of music that I really wanted.

I want to talk to you a little bit about the European Championships because you had a new role there as commentator amongst other duties. How did it feel to be on the other side?

It was hard. The first day I came back to the hotel, I had no time to eat, I was in shock. I don't know if it was because I was hungry or tired or cold but I was in shock. I thought to myself that I couldn't wait to just be back on the ice and do my thing but then the second day went much better. So I think the first day was strange because I had to adapt myself to this new experience and I learnt a lot seeing the other skaters. I haven't really seen a whole competition in these last few years and it was very interesting to watch each discipline, to see the mistakes, the good things, the choreographies, the different skaters and different styles. This is very helpful for me for my choreography work, because I can see who can do what. So I was happy to do that, it was great.

What were the highlights for you, were there any performances that really stood out?

For me the best memory of those Europeans is Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov.

Their free program was amazing.

I loved their free program. That's my first vision and then of course Sarah's success, it was just unbelievable, especially because I saw her before this competition and I was worried about her, I wanted her to have a good ending to her career.

How was it watching the men?

The men were really interesting, especially the short program with this new and old generation competing against each other. And I was really happy with Florent. It could be that there are some people who don't like this style, but I have to say it's really entertaining.

He does it so well.

He does it so well and I admire his skating, he's so into it and the crowd loves it, it's just fire on ice and that's great.

When you watched the men warm up, did it take you back to your own competition days, were you thinking of how you felt in these last minutes before going out to skate or were you quite a detached spectator?

I was commentating during most of the warm-ups and actually when I saw Sarah come to the ice, I could really see the pressure. And I remembered this feeling, I could feel it because I saw on her face what pressure is. But during the men's event, it was great when they came out for the six minute warm-up, it was great to see that ambience and the crowd but I wasn't really coming back to my days of competition.

And obviously you had a job to do as well. Did you enjoy it enough to do it again?

I would totally do it again because it was in my country and it was to help the Swiss skating world and I really want to help both my country and skating. It's very important for me because I really love this sport and I think that there are great opportunities for kids to express themselves on the ice and to also learn about discipline. It helped me so much in my life that I really want to show young people that it's a great sport, it has many possibilities. And even if you don't have big ambitions like being a World Champion, you can still have so much fun on the ice and get so much out of it.

And once you fall in love with this sport, it stays with you for life.

Exactly, there is this girl I know for example. She's probably 15 or 16 and she tries really hard to do the double axel and is very depressed because she cannot do it and it's already been four years that she's trying. She was crying at the rink one day and I asked her what was wrong. She said she had lost her motivation to skate and when I asked if it was about the double Axel, she said it was. I said to her that there are so many things in the skating world that she can do and not to waste her time on the double Axel. There are so many other things and even when you don't have a competition goal - for example now I don't have a competition goal anymore, but it's just a challenge for myself and when I skate I come and do my choreography, sometimes I jump, sometimes I don't want to jump - so I said to her that she would miss skating for sure. And even if she didn't want to come every day, she could come three times a week and just do what she wants to do and enjoy it because that's skating. It's not about double axels, it's so much more.

How does your day to day schedule look now, and how much do you train? You're still showing quads.

It's really rare that I have one week at home. But when I have it, I go to Geneva every day and I skate, I see Mr. Gruetter and I practice. That's a week when I'm home and it's maybe once every two months that I have one full week at home. And then I travel a lot. I also bought a small house in Portugal recently that I have to renovate, so as soon as I'm done with the shows in March, I will have a week to go there and see my grandmother and renovate the house, put some furniture in. So I really like to travel, for me it's not normal to be at home and to stay there. Since the Olympics I've always been sleeping in a different hotel or another house. I go to visit my mother, so it's kind of like I'm a Saltimbanc, I'm like a gypsy and I love it.

As you mentioned, without competition goals everything is a bit different. You get huge adrenaline rushes after a show, but don't you then fall into a hole when you're back at home?

No, for example next week we have a travel day off and I will probably stay at home in my pyjamas all day and I will do my laundry. Laundry really helps me to keep my feet on the ground, because it's the time when I organise my life. Between two suitcases I do the laundry, and I organise my life. It's my way of coming back to the real world, and it's very short but it's a good moment for me to be at home and to just relax. So it's quiet, but I need that too. It's either high adrenaline or quiet, waiting for my laundry to be done (laughter all round). I really like this life and I don't know how I'm going to feel the day when I won't be travelling this much because right now it's been such a wonderful year. I have no words about how great it is, it's just a dream. I really dreamt when I was a child to have this kind of life but I never believed that it would be possible, I thought it's just crazy to think about it and now I'm really in this world.

You're coming up with new numbers all the time, there are two programs which we haven't even seen yet.

Yes, one Tchaikovski and Please Don't Stop The Music, and I think the last time I practiced them was probably in November so I have to update those two choreographies but I really want to keep Bring Me To Life for the shows, too. I really wanted to see what it would be like with the live music and now I can't wait to skate it in Lausanne because it won't be live, so I want to see the difference. And if it works, I will keep it, because we put so much effort into this program and we did a lot of new moves, the footwork, I was very excited about this. Actually at the beginning we had a project for me to fly during the number instead of my flying camel spin but the technical side didn't work out so we were a little bit sad about that with Salomé, but it's still a great program, and with the flying maybe there would have been too much going on.

What a shame it didn't work out, but at least you did the video clip which was a new thing.

Yes, we did the movie which was great. But it was hard work filming it, we were there from five until midnight, so it was very long and cold in the snow. The poor girl just had a dress on and had to stay in the cold forever. So it was quite an experience but it was fun, I really loved acting and I hope that I can do more acting in other projects, it would be great.

How do you decide which programs to show at an event, is it a spur of the moment thing or do you plan ahead? For example in Bern you showed William Tell, was that because it's more mainstream and better suited to a bigger crowd?

Well, in Bern I did William Tell because it was in Switzerland and I thought it would be interesting to have this because of the 100 year celebration of Swiss Skating. In Davos, I will probably do Bring Me To Life and I want to do La Traviata because I've not shown it in Switzerland before and I know many Swiss fans are waiting for it. Then in St. Moritz we have Kim Wilde, so I have to do a new number. This will probably be I'll Stand By You, it's not by her but Kim said she would sing it. Sometimes when you have live music you have to make a new program and sometimes I feel like a program is done. For example Let The Good Times Roll is a program that's done for me and I was really happy to skate it, I had so much fun, but now I want to do something different. The same is true for William Tell, Bern was probably the last time I skated it. So each program has a life, for example Please Don't Stop The Music was born a few months ago but its life hasn't really started yet, hopefully soon. I really want to work on it so I can show it.

Do you think that one will work better with a smaller, more intimate crowd?

That piece is really long, it's about five minutes I think and it's not a piece where you have big emotions and big tricks like in Bring Me To Life. It's more intimate, it's true and it has a lot of acting in it. The musicality is really hard to get because there is this piano where I have to follow all the small notes, so it has to be really precise and well done to have the effect. And I have not really had the time yet to make it perfect for these shows.

So what's next for you after the shows in Lausanne, Davos and St. Moritz?

There is another show in Glarus and the first week of March I'm usually in Russia. Then I have two weeks off, so I will have a small vacation and go to Portugal and look after my house. In April I have Stockholm Ice and probably Kings on Ice and then Korea in May, Japan in June, China in July and Korea again in August. So until the end of August, it's going to be full and I'm so happy about it, it's great.

I have some other things on the side too, we're doing a Nike shoot with Sarah before St. Moritz so I will be busy. Also my brother is getting married and I have another friend who is getting married, so I will travel to these celebrations. Then my niece is probably coming in April, so it's very exciting.

Sounds great Stéphane, enjoy it all and make the most of it!



Copyright © 2004 - 2024, Absolute Skating
All rights reserved.