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Lang, Tchernyshev enjoy overseas opportunities

He's in Moscow, she's in Arizona, but they are still fire on ice

Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev compete in the compulsory dance during the State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 2004.
Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev compete in the compulsory dance during the State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 2004. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(11/08/2010) - Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev may live 6,000 miles apart, but geography hasn't put a dent in their performing career.

The five-time U.S. ice dance champions (1999-2003), long renowned for their sultry on-ice chemistry and romantic programs, have never been busier. We caught up with them just as they were about to hit the ice for Disson Skating's Holiday Celebration on Ice in Rapid City, S.D.

"We've been doing a lot of touring in Russia and Europe ever since about 2004, minus the break for Naomi being pregnant and having a second child [in November, 2009]," said Tchernyshev, who lives with his actress wife, Anastasia Zavorotnyuk, in Moscow. "Unfortunately, we haven't done much stuff in the States, just because there are more opportunities [elsewhere]."

"We've done so many tours; one of the bigger shows is Art on Ice in Switzerland every year," said Lang, now a resident of Gilbert, Ariz. with her husband and two children. "We also do a lot of stuff in Germany and a ton of stuff in Russia, since Peter is based there."

Up until a few years ago, the two lived in New Jersey, and worked out of some of the Garden State's many rinks. That changed when Tchernyshev met Zavorotnyuk, and Lang and husband Mark Fitzgerald -- also a former international ice dance competitor -- made a cross-country move.

"It hasn't slowed us down; whenever it comes to us having show or tour coming up, like one of the Disson Skating [specials], I come to Arizona for a week or two to make new programs, and off we go," Tchernyshev said.

The St. Petersburg native, who began his partnership with Lang in 1996 and became a U.S. citizen in 2001, is also in demand as a choreographer. This season, he created seven-time British ice dance champions Sinead Kerr and John Kerr's new free dance to music from the band Muse.

"I went to Edinburgh to work with them and it was a great experience," Tchernyshev said. "Number one, they are great skaters and great people to work with. Number two, their taste in music is very close to mine; they gave me their music for the free dance and it was pretty easy to get on the same page with them.

"I know they didn't skate it the way they wanted to at Skate Canada but I think they will develop it as the season goes on, make a couple of adjustments."

After their silver-medal performance at Skate Canada, Sinead and John sung Tchernyshev's praises but added that working with the 39-year-old taxed their stamina.

"He's more into skating than anyone I've ever known," John said. "He was tough. Everyone at the rink was amazed. We would get there at 9:00 a.m. and still be there at 7:00 p.m. There was always 'one more thing' he wanted to do."

Tchernyshev laughed but made no apologies.

"Probably I'm a perfectionist," he admitted. "Skating for so long made me that way. If you want to survive, to be competitive with the rest of the field, then you have to try for perfection. And I understand my responsibility for their program was quite high.

"When it comes to creativity, once you have it going, it's kind of hard to stop. When you are inspired by the music and the creative process, you had better use that challenge because it doesn't always happen that way. Sometimes you are there saying, 'Okay, what can I make up?' Creativity is not something you have on demand."

For the last three seasons, Tchernyshev has participated in Russia's popular Fire and Ice TV show that teams celebrities with pro skaters in a reality competition format. This season, he's partnering Ukrainian pop singer Hope Granovskaya.

"The show is quite an extensive time commitment, especially since I've done quite well," he said. "I won the first season and in the second and third season, I was like fifth. And now in the last season, which is on TV as we speak, I think we've done pretty well.

"This year, not only do we perform on the ice, but couples also perform [dances] on the floor. It's a combination of Skating with the Stars and Dancing With the Stars, a very interesting format. I like having completely different options. The project is very innovative, uses a lot of props, and the performances are very theatrical."

Lang and Tchernyshev considered taking part in the new U.S. show, Skating with the Stars.

"We were called by the people putting it together, but we didn't come to agreement as far as conditions and all that stuff," Tchernyshev said. "If it gets good ratings, maybe next year it will be [expanded], and we will participate in it."

As for Lang, she and husband Fitzgerald, married since August 2008, welcomed son Mason in November, 2009. He joined Lillia, now six, Naomi's daughter from a previous relationship with former ice show acrobat Vladimir Besedin. The family enjoys the Arizona lifestyle.

"We're about 30 minutes from Phoenix," Lang, 31, said. "It's just a change in atmosphere, and financially it's more reasonable [than New Jersey]; you get more for your money out there. Mark's side of the family, his mom and dad and his sister, live there so we have more help with our kids.

"Lillia is starting first grade now. She's becoming a fantastic little skater; she just won her basic competition two weekends ago, so I'm a very proud mommy. My son will be one on November 14th and he is this little bundle of happiness, constantly laughing and -- call me crazy -- almost walking."

Both Naomi and Mark teach full-time at Gilbert's Polar Ice facility, where they and their colleagues are building a figure skating program.

"It's starting to pick up," she said. "We're getting more students, just kind of building a base. There hasn't been a big skating base in our part of Arizona."

The mother of two said being away from her family for work commitments can be tough, but also has its advantages.

"It is hard at times, but it's also a little time for me to get away from the hectic family life and enjoy a bit of the skating," she said. "It actually balances itself out really nicely for me."

The team is spending more time performing in North America this season, taking part not only in the Holiday on Ice special, which will be broadcast on NBC on November 28th, but Shall We Dance on Ice, which was shown November 7th.

"The dance show was a great reunion," Lang -- who accepted Fitzgerald's on-ice proposal at a Disson show in Trenton, NJ in 2006 -- said. "We trained with half of the people back in Detroit. We watched Charlie [White] and Meryl [Davis] skate together when they were 10 years old."

Their next big North American gig will be Disson Skating's Salute to the Golden Age of American Skating, in Atlantic City on December 11th.

"We really want to make it a priority to skate in the States," Tchernyshev said. "Slowly but surely, with the success of the ice dancers and Evan Lysacek at the [2010] Olympics, it's picking up. I think there is another wave of great interest in skating in this country and we want to take part in it."