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Abbott taking new steps for new season

Two-time champ hopes to keep nerves at bay

NBC Sports, Universal Sports and icenetwork.com team up to deliver unprecedented coverage of the 2010 Grand Prix Series.
NBC Sports, Universal Sports and icenetwork.com team up to deliver unprecedented coverage of the 2010 Grand Prix Series. (Getty Images)

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By Sarah S. Brannen, special to icenetwork.com
(07/13/2010) - Jeremy Abbott is on the move these days.

The two-time and reigning U.S. champion drove to Toronto last week to choreograph his new free skate with David Wilson. He left for the weekend to skate in two shows in Sun Valley, flew back to Toronto to finish the choreography, and then drove back to his training base in Detroit. On Monday, he'll fly to Korea to skate in Yu-Na Kim's 2010 All That Skate Summer show on July 23, 24 and 25; he will debut his new short program in the show.

On the phone, from the road, Abbott discussed his new programs and choreography. He said that although he usually competes once during the summer, this year he will debut his free skate during Champs Camp in August. He is looking forward to competing at the NHK Trophy in Japan and the Rostelecom Cup in Russia this fall.

"Skating has been going well," he said. "My jumps are feeling great. I think the [Stars on Ice] tour did a lot for me and I'm excited to see how competition goes this year. Halfway through the tour, I stopped feeling nervous and I was able to have fun but still focus, which has always been a problem for me."

Abbott said that the music for his short program is "Viejos Aires," by Ensamble Nuevo Tango. The choreographer, Antonio Najarro, is a well-known Spanish flamenco dancer who has his own dance company. Najarro has been working with skaters since 2002, and he notably choreographed Stephane Lambiel's flamenco and tango programs in recent years. This season, he also choreographed Brian Joubert's short program.

"Antonio came to Detroit last year to work with Kaitlyn [Weaver] and Andrew [Poje] and I loved watching him work," Abbott said. "I wanted to do something very authentic this season, something strong and extroverted, to break out of my shell a little bit."

Najarro choreographed the program off-ice first. Abbott learned it on the floor, and then the two, working with Abbott's coach Yuka Sato, transferred it to the ice during a week-long choreography session.

"It was very difficult," Abbott said. "The music is a tango, but the movement is a mixture of tango, flamenco and contemporary. The posture and the movement are so foreign to me. That's been the biggest challenge, to get the movement comfortable for my body."

For his free skate, Abbott also wanted to move in a new direction. Sato wanted the program to have a storyline and revolve around a character, something Abbott says he hasn't done before.

"I'm doing two styles that are new to me and very uncomfortable! But I'm very excited to push myself to do something better," he said. "I always try to pick pieces that are really different from each other and from previous years."

Abbott has wanted to work with Wilson for some time, but said he hadn't previously had the chance to.

"We chose the music from the movie Life is Beautiful, he said. "It's one of my favorite movies ever. The character is goofy, and a little silly, and kind of cute, but he's put in this horrible situation and has to create an imaginary world for his son. David thought I could play this character really well, and he thought it reminded him of my personality a little bit."

"I was trying to think of a character that might work for Jeremy," said Wilson. "There's something really cute and charming and sweet and adorable about his personality. He has this boy-next-door quality, he's just a sweetheart. There's an innocence about him, a kind of old-world charm. And he's like Robin Cousins incarnate on the ice -- he has such an organic ease in his skating quality."

Wilson said that it was a challenge to find music cuts appropriate for a free skate.

"There's not a lot of over-the-top strong music that you would choose for a senior man," he said. "I told him it wasn't going to have a big huge ending, but if he was willing to go for a more emotionally-based piece that has a journey to it and a lot of charm and changes then I thought we might have something. It's such a wonderful theme of the human spirit, keeping your eye on the prize and seeing the best possible side of life.

"Jeremy was my last choreography for the season and it was a nice way to finish -- he's such an easy person to work with and he has such mastery of skating and movement. I hope if people haven't fallen in love with Jeremy yet, that this will be the piece that makes them fall in love with him."