Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje: "Inspiration can come from anywhere if you are open to ideas"

October 19, 2012
By Titanilla Bőd
Photo © poggi & 2012 Absolute Skating

By Titanilla Bod

They were the biggest stars of the Ondrej Nepela Memorial this year and they blew the audience's mind with their brand new free dance. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje also caught people's hearts with their kind behavior - they didn't turn down any request for an autograph, a photo – or an interview.

I've read that you have a special connection to Bratislava. What is it?
Andrew: My mother was born and raised in Bratislava, but I've never been here before. This is my first time visiting the country, and I love the place. I'm enjoying the culture and seeing where my mother came from. She moved to Canada when she was 18 years old [in 1968 when Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Russian army] and stayed there ever since. I never had a chance to come and see Bratislava till now. So now I'm so happy.

Your great aunt is Agnesa Búrilová, former Czechoslovakian pairs skater. Did you know about this connection when you started skating?
Andrew: No, I didn't know about it at the beginning, but as I grew older, I found out more and more. So I have figure skating in my genes! My mother also learned to skate, but she didn't go far with her skating.

Do you speak some Slovak as well?
Andrew: My mother never taught me Slovak. It's a running joke that my mother didn't teach me so that she could talk about me without me knowing what she was saying.

Did you meet some family members during the competition?
Andrew: Yeah, I saw a lot of cousins and aunts that I haven't seen in a long time. It's good to see the family again. I love the city as well. It's beautiful and its great history is evident.
Kaitlyn: Bratislava is really beautiful. I love being in a place where you can see the history and the culture. The design and the architecture are so beautiful; I love traveling, being in new places and I've never been here as well. It's a great city, with very warm atmosphere; and people are very friendly. It is definitely on my list of favourite places.

Who chose this competition for the start of your season?
Andrew: It was everyone's idea. We came together as a training group and figured out which competitions are best suited for the schedule. We have the Grand Prix coming up very soon, and we wanted to make sure we just get the season rolling on a smaller stage, before it gets big with the Grand Prix.

Kaitlyn: Andrew's mum was hoping for us to win this one, of course, and she was so happy when we did get it. But it works up perfectly with the schedule, so that's the main reason why we chose this competition. It's very good for us to get out and compete before everything gets started.

How do you feel about your new short program?
Andrew: Here in Bratislava it was a strong performance to start with, but we definitely have a lot of growth ahead of us. We have things to work on when we go back home, before Skate America, but we are definitely happy with the way we presented the program.

What about your new free dance?
Kaitlyn: We are so excited about it! It's something very different from the short, kind of opposite of the short dance. It's a little more challenging, a little more unique.

Wasn't it hard to say goodbye to your last free dance, "Je suis malade", which was kind of the highlight of the last season?
Kaitlyn: Yeah, it was… It was such a journey to take with that program from start to finish. We performed it on Stars on Ice, the Canadian tour and after that we were okay with letting it go. We've done it so many times and everyone was so positive with the program, so we decided that it's good to move to something different now, bigger and better. It's a very special program for us.

Do you think that so far it was the highlight of your career?
Andrew: We grow every year, so every year we feel like it's a highlight. Hopefully we haven't hit our peak at all and we want to just look forward and upwards to grow more and more.

When creating a new program, what does inspire you?
Kaitlyn: Everything! Everything can inspire us! It can come from a dance on the floor, it can come from art, picture, music, movies. There are so many different inspirations. We like the Sound of Music movie, so it was our first choice for the polka. And for the free, I thought about an idea from a song I heard on the radio, and we started talking about it with Pasquale (Carmelengo, their choreographer - ed), we were building on that idea, and then we found the music for it. Inspiration can come from anywhere if you are open to ideas. That's the fun part about creating – you can always find something new and innovative if you open your mind a little bit.

I've read that the music for your free dance was discovered by Pasquale's daughter – is this true?
Kaitlyn: Yeah, because we were searching, and searching, and searching for so long to find the music. Pasquale really loved the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers; this group is on the Internet and we watch it on Youtube. So he was watching, and then he went away for a second, and his daughter was watching. He heard the song and was like "What is that?". That's how they were developing the perfect soundtrack for this free dance. It's funny how things can happen.

It seems you are experts in this - last year you received a suggestion from a fan for your free dance, now it's your choreographer's daughter…
Kaitlyn: Yeah, exactly, last year it was a fan and even now it wasn't from us personally. It's a new adventure every year. It's interesting.

Isn't it hard for you that even though you are so extraordinary, you are not the first ranked Canadian couple?
Andrew: I think it shows the great depth in Canadian figure skating and it shows we have great programs. It also encourages us as athletes and performers to push Tessa and Scott. We want to be at the top and we want to make sure that we grow and grow to become the best we can. Kaitlyn: We want to get two Canadian teams on the podium at Worlds. That'd be the first time that's ever happened. I think it's a good thing. We miss out the World Team Trophy every year, which is kind of sad, but that's the only thing we lose. It's great for the Canadian ice dance to show how strong it is.

Is this your main goal for this season – to get two Canadian couples on the podium?
Kaitlyn: Absolutely, why not? Worlds are in London [Ontario] this year, let's go broke, let's go for the top!

Why did you become ice dancers, when you started skating? What was your first inspiration?
Andrew: My first inspiration was that at my rink all the other male figure skaters were ice dancers. Ever since the beginning I enjoyed dancing, so I stuck to something I enjoyed and loved.
Kaitlyn: My first coach was a dancer, so he immediately put me into ice dancing. I was six years old. But I think my real inspiration came from Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsyannikov. I saw them on tour when I was very young and I was like: that's what I want to do. I'd been dancing, but after that I started to take it very seriously. I always wanted to be like them. It's funny she is our coach now, but that's definitely where I got my inspiration.

Do you think ice dancing can benefit from floor dancing?
Andrew: Definitely. It's so different in a way that they utilize the art form much more. That's one thing we look forward to bringing on the ice. We want to push our limits to create not just the technical elements, but also something that makes our program enjoyable for the audience.
Kaitlyn: We even branched out and one of our co-choreographers was a floor dancer. She never had anything to do with the ice. Her ideas were totally new and different. We were like: Oh, yes, I guess we could do that on the ice, we just never thought about that before! It's very interesting for us to bring those new ideas to the ice, because they are so new and fresh, and we want to keep broadening the spectrum for the ice dance.

You are a very artistic couple. Isn't it hard to fit in all the rules with the technical elements?
Kaitlyn: That's half the battle about being a great team. In this generation the important thing is being able to disguise the technical elements and not make them look like an exercise, to blend it all together until it becomes one piece. We've got a great team of coaches who help us do that. They ask us to spend as much energy doing a crossover as we do for a lift, because essentially they are worth the same. I mean, visually – you don't stop watching a crossover. So we're trying to make everything important and for everything to have chemistry with the rest. The program tells a story with everything. I think it helps to create a more integral feel. It's like a puzzle. You know you've got it right if it looks seamless together.

If you could change some rules in ice dancing, what would you change?
Kaitlyn: Huh…
Andrew: Huh…
Kaitlyn: Umm… First thing that comes to mind is the rule about the beat, to have a beat after ten seconds. I feel there is so much music that doesn't have the "dum-dum-dum", it's melodic… Look at the great ballets, not all of them have a steady beat, but the music is just so amazing. So this rule kind of limits us to the fact that we have to put a beat after ten seconds, even if it doesn't make sense with the chemistry of the song. I know it differentiates ice dance from other disciplines but I think it narrows our field of music choice.
Andrew: I would say the lack of the free lift in the short dance. They excluded one of the lifts in the short dance, so there is only one lift left. It's something I miss in the short dance, something that would bring more crowd-pleasing environment into the programs.

While we are talking, you often look at each other, you seem very good friends. Is it always like that, at the practice sessions as well?
Kaitlyn: We get along very well. Our coaches have said they don't know anyone who gets along as well as we do. Of course if you spend so much time with someone, you also argue, we have our bad moments. But it never gets to the point where we aren't friends anymore. We always have this solid foundation. We can disagree on something, but we take a step back and understand where to make it up. We work very well together, we have a passion for our sport and that helps to point us into the same direction. It's nice to always have Andrew by my side. He can make me happy; he can calm me down…
Andrew: I can annoy her…
Kaitlyn: (laughs) Yes, sometimes, but he knows me better than anybody else.

Who is the more nervous one in a competition?
Andrew: It depends on the competition. Since we spend so much time together, we both know each other's feelings before the event. If someone's feeling nervous, the other calms him/her down. So we're always on the same page.
Kaitlyn: It really goes back and forth. But we are getting much better at being less nervous. The longer we are together, the less nervous we get. So, it's going up.

World championships will be held in London, Ontario this year. What does it mean to you, skating in front of your home crowd? Is it an extra pressure, or is it a motivation?
Andrew: It's not extra pressure, but it's definitely something different. We love skating in Canada, it's our home country and the audience is probably the best. There's always a lot of energy in the arena, so we really enjoy skating there.
Kaitlyn: It may seem a little bit like more pressure, because you know so many people in the audience, and they're all watching, but when you get on the ice and you feel the electricity – it gives me chills just thinking about it! – it only helps. The Canadian audience is a loving one no matter what. And they have such knowledge of the sport and they appreciate skaters no matter where they come from. Not only the Canadians, not only the home competitors, they are just happy to see you and it makes you even more excited.

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