Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier: "We continue to do things our way!"

October 24, 2015
By Titanilla Bőd (Új Szó)
Photo © Poggi, Cristiano Iera

They started the season with a victory at the Ondrej Nepela Trophy in Bratislava. After the short dance, they were in third place with 62.56 points. They rocked the free dance and climbed to the top of the podium. After their free dance score, 96.58 points came up, they hugged each other and their coach, Carol Lane, looked in awe, still not believing what they were seeing. A few minutes after their victorious moment Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier agreed to have a chat with Absolute Skating.

It's not very common at this competition to have such a reaction in the kiss and cry.

Paul: Yeah, it was very exciting. Usually at the beginning of the season your scores are lower and they improve as the season goes on. So it is really exciting for us that the scores here were so close to our scores at Worlds last year, where we finished 6th. It's really hard at the first competition, especially because the short dance is so new, to know what's a good score and what's a bad score. So we didn't really know what to expect coming into the event. Points-wise we are really pleased, but to have two good skates is the most important to us as we head into the Grand Prix.

You have very interesting and unusual programs this year. Your short dance starts with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and then turns into some waltz.

Piper: Originally we wanted to do something like masquerade ball, but as we started to listen to music we felt: "I feel like everyone's going to do something like that!" And for us, we continue to do things our way and we want to push ourselves in different directions. We don't want to do a typical ballroom waltz. So we tried to figure out what to do to be unique. Carol, our coach, actually came up with the idea. She said: "I know you'll think I'm crazy, but what if you guys were hippies?" We responded: "What are you talking about?" But the more we thought about it, the more of a story and a concept developed and as we started doing the program, it just kind of started creating itself. It is something drastic - we still find it challenging to find that change between the almost dream sequence of the Beatles and then going into the grand waltz. The work is still in progress.
Paul: The Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, the Beatles' version, included an instrument called a harpsichord, and that's what we use as the 'key' which triggers us to enter the dream into which we are transported back in time. We are hippies who dream we are dancing a waltz. And at the end of the program we wake up from the dream.
Piper: There are moments in the program where I think the more we do the program the more we will improve. That's the beauty of it. I think people will like the singing at the beginning, because it's exciting and original, and as the season goes on, it's going to become an interesting program. I think a lot of people will keep singing it over and over again. It is so us, we are funny people, we love doing interesting things.

What about the free dance?

Piper: It's a complete shocker after the short program. It's called Saudade, which means a longing for something that you can't have.
Paul: We start as two separate people and there is a lot of mirroring in that part of the program. We struggle a lot, because we can't reach each other. There are two ways to interpret it, you can see two people, such as a couple who are struggling to know each other, or it could be a single person struggling with another part of their self. Anyway as the program goes on, there is a sequence where we start walking together and we realize: oh, we are working together.
Piper: It's like an acceptance of who we are and what we are. Anybody can take it to different directions and that's the beauty in it. As the program goes on, it's more about celebration of something, it could be each other, it could be oneself... it's just a beautiful program, it really took us, I really got into it.
Paul: The biggest goal we wanted this year was to do programs that were satisfying, and we are people that like to be challenged. I think my biggest fear is that we choreograph a program and halfway through the season we realize it has reached its full potential and it has nowhere left to go. This season we are going to take the whole year to develop these programs; at the end of the season we are going to get so much more out of it.
Piper: We really want to creep up in the standings and we were planning. What it is going to take for us to keep improving? Sometimes it's hard, especially after having a great result at Worlds. So we asked the question: how do we get there, how do we make that jump? But with these programs I think it's going to be a beautiful year. We challenged ourselves and pushed ourselves to be there and where we are now.

Weren't you afraid how the judges would react to such weird programs?

Paul: I think you never know how people will react. I've done some very traditional programs that were well received. I've done off-the-wall programs that were well received, and vice versa. And there's no way of knowing, when you are doing a program, what people will like and what they won't like, what they will understand and what they won't. It's always a risk you are taking, and I think if you spend your whole season worrying about that, you are not going to get anywhere. Eventually you have to commit to an idea...
Piper: ...and you have to find a way to really make it your own.

In Canada there are many good couples and it's not easy to make the World team. Is it hard or is it inspiring for you?

Paul: It's both. There is a lot of pressure and there is no certainty that you are going to make it and go to Worlds, and on the other hand it presses you to be that much better. If we didn't have all the other teams in Canada, we wouldn't be as motivated to do what we do. If there was a guarantee that we'd go to Worlds I think it would be harder to motivate ourselves. So it's hard but it's also a blessing. That's really what sport is about, also with our teammates. Just to have other people that are working next to us and seeing them work makes you want to do more.
Piper: It's funny, because we are now role models and we have to continue that. We have to make sure that they can look up to us. For us it's a new experience and we are up for the challenge.
Paul: It's such an exciting time to have so many good dance teams in Canada; skating is widely recognized now in the country. When people ask me what I do and I say I skate they actually know what it is. It has been built over years and years, with the past champions as well.
Piper: I think it's an honour to represent Canada, not everyone gets to do that. We need to really be aware of that and support what Canada has built over the years.

You both skated with another partner. How is this partnership different from the previous ones?

Piper: We just have two personalities that click and two skating styles that click. That's really important. We both had partnerships that had lasted a long time and during those times you get to know what you like and what you don't like. None of those partnerships were bad, but now just something clicks with us and it is something special.

What is your biggest goal together?

Paul: We really want to be on the podium at the next Olympic Games, so everything that we are doing looks towards that. This year we want to close the gap between us and the five teams ahead of us at the Worlds and we also want to move up in the Canadian ranks. We want to start to push for the top spot in the country. This is going to be a challenge, as we have a very strong team. There is a lot happening in the sport, so we just can't rest and stay comfortable if we want to reach our goals. We are really focused on the Olympics and any progress towards it is positive.


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