Ice Network

Méité works hard to bring out dancer in herself

French skater excited to return to Detroit for Skate America
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Maé-Bérénice Méité has a background in dance, but she's only just now starting to use that training in her skating. -Getty Images

Maé Bérénice Méité has been known for her jumping and athletic abilities since she started on the international circuit. She is now discovering that she can also be an expressive dancer, a talent she had within herself but never put on the ice. She gracefully accepted to discuss this with icenetwork prior to flying to Detroit for her first Grand Prix of the season at 2013 Skate America. One of her choreographers, Laurie May, agreed to add a few comments as well.

Icenetwork: Year after year, it seems that you are improving like no other, especially on your artistic side. Where does that come from?

Méité: A lot of work! It is quite difficult. You have done so much already, and then you need to go further all the time. You need to assess where you can go and then put your full energy into it. You need to force yourself and leave your comfort zone day after day.

Icenetwork: Can you talk of us about the programs you have elected to skate to in this Olympic season?

Méité: My short program was devised to "The Question of U" by Prince. We have really worked on my arm and body movement there. I tended to have dead arms, really, or even to hold my arms but not my hands. We have been working extensively on this point. My coach is always reminding me, so it is starting to improve.

My choreographer for the short program is Laurie May, who works with Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat. She is like my own sunshine! She is so passionate, and she makes me feel like dancing right away. When I am watching her, I have stars in my eyes. I tell to myself: "That's what she wants me to achieve? Whoa!" Then she explains to me in detail, she advises me on what to do, and it starts coming up.

It's a great help to have an eye like hers. She is coming from outside of the skating world and yet she knows a lot about it. Skating choreographers would not approach choreography the same way she does.

"Believe it or not," May explained, "Maé still has an incredible potential. She is very talented, she has a real musical ear, and she is an excellent dancer -- she just never showed it on the ice before. She was starting her moves, yet she did not value them."

Méité: My coach and choreographer always tell me, "You know how to move, come on, you're not going to prove to me you don't!" They also tell me, "Your upper body must tell that it's easy, whatever your lower body is doing. We are always trying to go to the limits of balance on each step, and it pays off.

"We are only working on what she already has within her," May added. "For instance, Maé already knows how to dissociate her upper and lower body easily; she has that within herself. She is a super-mobile girl; she just needs to express it on the ice. We are working a lot on her feelings, her own center. She has great arm postures, but until now they were not connected to her center. She was more mechanical; her moves were not fed from within. What we are trying to bring is, 'I feel it. I live it.'

"The good news is that skating technique can follow much better," May concluded, "As Maé is following her own self. Skating is such a difficult sport. It's so difficult to add some body language, when there is so much already in their skates. That's why what you see is either highs -- with very emotional moments -- or lows, with no energy. It is quite frustrating to watch. Maé is working against this."

Icenetwork: What about your long program?

Méité: My long program is set to rock 'n' roll, with musical themes by Santana and Queen. I love setting up my programs. Also, because I am a dancer, I suppose that I am even more interested in doing so.

Icenetwork: You say that you are a dancer. How did that come to you?

Méité: I did a lot of dancing when I was younger. I started with classical dance, with my feet in full extension. I did some ballroom, too, and then some rhythmic gym. I would love to go back to gym, actually, but I need more time. Gym is really useful to improve body flexibility, and this helps in spins, among other things.

Icenetwork: What about Theatre On Ice?

Méité: I am still involved in Theatre On Ice, but only at the end of the competitive season now. We loved the programs we did last year. (The Vitry team ended fourth nationally.) The team had qualified to participate in the third Nations Cup, in Logroño, Spain. It was the first time for them, so they had a lot to learn. It was a great experience for each one of them, both from a personal and a sports perspective. They also realized (she laughs) that it was not so easy to go abroad and represent their country! It's not just a matter of going there and skating!

Icenetwork: You seem to have also improved the technical side of your skating as well this season?

Méité: Oh, yes. I have decided to include a triple Salchow-triple toe in my free program. I started including it at French Masters in early October. So, I will have that triple- triple combination and also my usual double Axel-triple toe a bit later in my program.

The main thing for me now is to tame my transitions. My choreographer has included a lot in my long program, and I still have to master them. I will improve throughout the season.

Icenetwork: Besides skating, where are you up to now in your studies?

Méité: I graduated from high school last year. I was running late at the end of the season, so I really studied hard. I was admitted into a university close to Paris. I have started in foreign languages, in order to better master Spanish and English. My goal is to create perfumes, so I will have to study chemistry. I have not enough time for it at this moment, however, so I decided to concentrate on foreign languages. It will be useful for my career anyway. After that, hopefully, I will be able to go back to chemistry and work toward my dream.

Icenetwork: You are about to leave for your first Grand Prix this season. How do you feel?

Méité: I am really excited to go back to Detroit. I love that city. I went there with the French team last year, just one week prior to the 2013 World Championships in London. There, I could meet with Jeremy Abbott and Alissa Czisny and a few others. We connected right away. They were so welcoming to us.

Icenetwork: You seem to be quite a perfectionist. When will you be satisfied?

Méité: I'm on my way. I'll be satisfied when I have danced my programs rather than I have skated them, when I have given some emotion to the audience and judges and it is reflected in my points, when I have finally made it to the top of the world elite. Then I'll be satisfied. (She smiles.)

Well, I'll be half satisfied, actually, because there will always be so much work to do!