Pechalat, Bourzat ready for world championships
Pair plans to build on strong performance at Europeans
|Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat narrowly missed the bronze medal at Europeans. (Getty Images)|
Pechalat took the time to talk about their new training methods and give her thoughts to icenetwork.com, just one month before the 2009 World Championships.
How do you feel about your showing in Helsinki?
Really good. We had reviewed our choreography before and after skating at nationals. We wanted to polish our style again with our choreographers. Then, we spent lots of time working on our technical elements, so we were really ready. Actually, we feel we are building up: our season started rather low at Skate Canada [where the duo finished in a disappointing third place], then at NHK Trophy [where they won the silver medal], and now in Helsinki.
This was your first experience with your new coaches at an ISU championship. How did it go?
Excellent. Our coaches, Sasha Zhulin and Oleg Volkov, are very tough, yet they are also quite positive, and they give us trust and assurance. When we arrived at the competition, we felt that we had coaches who were there for us and were really ready to support us. They are available each time we needed them, and at the same time, they leave us space when we need to concentrate or reflect after a performance.
What about your programs?
They went really well. So many people came to us to thank us for our programs. Many coaches, skaters, fans, ISU officials came to congratulate us -- even some Italian spectators came to us. It was wonderful! Of course, it is rather frustrating to miss a medal. At times, we have the feeling that we just passed by something bigger. Yet we really did our job in Helsinki, which is important.
What are the next steps you want to improve upon?
Obviously, we need to change every element that did not get a Level 4. So we changed our combined lift in the free dance, which got a Level 2, and one of our step sequences. Nowadays, you need to be completely sure that your elements all get a Level 4. In fact, it may be rather detrimental to ice dancing and to creativity as a whole.
What do you mean?
The name of the game is to secure your points. It means that skaters could be inclined to take elements that have already been validated as Level 4s. It also means that you should not take risks and create new elements. If you watch Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski [the Russian duo who won gold at Europeans], you will see that they have taken out some lifts they had created earlier. Half of the dance couples will do the same rotational lift for the same reason: it is rather simple, and it is validated as a Level 4. This, of course, is detrimental to creativity.
It seems that you have gained new amplitude in the way you dance. Many experts underlined that you had improved on your attitudes and movements. How do you explain this?
In fact, we have started to take classical dance lessons last summer, and it shows. When you acquire some movements off-ice, they remain within you when you are on the ice. Our choreographers give it great importance. Classical dance teaches us how to hold a leg, how to carry our head, how to move an arm. At the same time, Oleg and Sasha put a strong emphasis on our unison. The more we skate together; the more our style becomes visible. Unison is like an amplifying factor.
Do you have a special professor for classical dance?
Absolutely. In Russia, everybody takes classical dance. The whole team Sasha coaches takes a class three times a week. A professor comes here, at our skating complex, where we have a special room for it. She is still a dancer herself. She speaks neither English nor French, yet we have technical language to understand one another! Also, she watches us skate to correct us on the ice as well.
What new directions would you like to explore while you are training in Moscow?
I think we have found a great way of working. Russian technique is based upon classical dance and ice dancing technique. We bring a theme and some originality à la Française [in the French way]. This is a great alliance for us, and we really want to keep working in that direction. We are still far from having learned everything we need. We are still in the exploration and learning phase. We need to work on the basics extensively -- on our presence, our unison, on the cleanness of our step sequences. And at the same time we need to develop choreography, and the vivacity and freshness we have cultivated in France.
Some experts quote your programs, especially your original and free dances, as some of the most interesting in the field. How do you work for that?
This has to do with the difficulty we were discussing earlier. It is not easy to have a story to convey, when you have points to grasp at the same time. Ice dancing may be penalized by the levels awarded to the technical elements. Skaters could feel they are encouraged to take as many points as they can by piling up elements. They could feel they do not need to think about the theme they skate to. You can not criticize them, we need to understand it: we are all here to win medals. Yet if you wish to make the audience feel interested, you need to think of emotions. You need to entertain them. Each one of your technical elements should bear a meaning... and give you the maximum number of points at the same time.
What is next for you then?
We will see... You know, this year, I have realized that skating was really a passion for my whole life. I really hope that we can transfer that passion to the judges and to the audience alike, just like we did in Helsinki. This is in fact the reason why we are working so hard. We hope it works!