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Camerlengo collaborates with Plushenko, Mishin

PSA Choreographer of the Year adds transitions to Russian legend's 2012-13 programs

Pasquale Camerlengo accepts his Choreographer of the Year award at the PSA conference.
Pasquale Camerlengo accepts his Choreographer of the Year award at the PSA conference. (Liz Leamy)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(05/25/2012) - When Pasquale Camerlengo traveled to St. Petersburg to choreograph Evgeni Plushenko's competitive programs, he knew it would be under the watchful eyes of the three-time Olympic medalist's long-time coach, Alexei Mishin.

He just didn't know how watchful those eyes would be.

"I am not used to working that way, having the coach there with you, constantly demanding you do things," Camerlengo said with a laugh. "But, you know, we worked it out. We got the job done."

Thursday night, the former Italian ice dance champion, who placed fifth at the 1992 Olympics (with Stefania Calegari), accepted the Professional Skaters Association (PSA) Paul McGrath Award for Choreographer of the Year for his work with U.S. skaters, including 2012 world team members Alissa Czisny, Adam Rippon, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, and 2012 world junior bronze medalists Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton. He also created Japanese world silver medalist Daisuke Takahashi's acclaimed "Blues for Klook" free skate.

"I would like to thank everybody for welcoming me to this country," he said in accepting the award. "Thank you so much for everything you've done to believe in me."

Now, Camerlengo -- who is married to two-time Russian world ice dance champion Anjelika Krylova -- has turned his hand to the sport's biggest current icon, the 2006 Olympic gold medalist for Russia. (Takahashi is working on his 2012-13 programs with Lori Nichol.)

"Plushenko has everything he needs to compete at the same level as the others," Camerlengo said. "He can definitely fight for medals."

Last season, the 30-year-old Plushenko easily defeated younger competition at the 2012 European Figure Skating Championships. A knee injury kept him from the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships, but he vowed to return this fall. Although his name doesn't appear on the initial list of 2012 Grand Prix entrants, the Russian Skating Federation could still choose him as a "host pick" for the Rostelecom Cup, held Nov. 2-4 in Moscow.

"I think he will compete," Camerlengo said.

As for Mishin, he and Camerlengo found common ground by the end of the choreographer's four-day visit.

"Oh, I love him," Camerlengo said. "And he is very jealous of me because I married Anjelika. He always says to me, 'You stole our diamond.' I said, 'You let the diamond go.' "

Icenetwork.com: It's your first time working with Plushenko -- what are your overall impressions?

Camerlengo: It was awesome. He is very good. Of course, it is very different to work with him, because first of all, there is Mishin always there, right behind you. He will say, 'I want something like this, I want something like that, I wish he could go like this.' Even before you are doing something, he gives you direction of how he wants it. So it's a kind of a different procedure for me. Normally, I create [choreography] and then I show it, and then a coach may say, 'This part, I don't like.' With Mishin, it is before I even create something. It's, 'I want something here, then he turns, then he goes faster, and then he slows down.'

Icenetwork.com: Was Plushenko receptive to your ideas?

Camerlengo: He was amazing. Right from the beginning, he and I listened to the music [and discussed] what he would like to go for -- my ideas, his ideas. We never had a conflict. So far, it's been very, very good.

Evgeni is really capable. He surprised me with his ability and skills as a skater. I'd ask, 'Why haven't you done that before?' He did so many things, but in a competitive program you have to consider all the time the elements, the jumps, the timing, the stamina, many things. So you cannot really skate a program using all of your skills, [including] all the steps you can do and all of the other things you can do on the ice. Because you have to think, 'If I overload the program, I'm not able to do the elements.' And in the end, the elements give you the results.

Icenetwork.com: Plushenko has been criticized for a lack of transitions between elements.

Camerlengo: That's what we worked on. We worked on having full transitions; we wanted to do that. I said, 'I want to see you doing something that is not crossovers.' And we went for that, and he was really, really positive. He feels so motivated; he wants to show everybody, 'I can do this, I can do that.' Why he didn't do more of that before, I cannot say, but his [winning] history makes him right. It seemed to have hurt him a bit at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, though.

In Vancouver, he lost the Olympics [due to] one jump. (Evan Lysacek defeated Plushenko by 1.31 points.) He didn't perform a triple-double-double combination; he did triple-double. If he had done triple-double-double, he might be Olympic champion. So history proves him right. People criticize him, but he always did the same thing in competition and he has always been rewarded. So in the end, he's right.

Icenetwork.com: If Plushenko does compete at the world championships again, he'll have to compete against Patrick Chan, Daisuke Takahashi.

Camerlengo: He can do it. Of course, he is 30 years old and he's going to be the oldest one of the whole group, but he has good technique and such skills when he skates. I think he can make it. I think he can go and show up there with the program and compete, for sure. He won [2012] Europeans with a big score.

He has everything he needs to compete at the same level with all the others and even more, because he has such amazing experience, and he has a charisma that is so amazing on the ice. Already, when he is just standing on the ice, the people watch him so [intently].

Icenetwork.com: Will you return to work with him again?

Camerlengo: I may go back to Russia. I lost a few days; there was a problem getting a visa here (including a paperwork snafu and lost overnight package). So I went to Milan, Mishin sent a personal letter to the embassy there, and my visa was there in 15 minutes.

Now I have to see what [Plushenko's] plans are, because right now he's not skating. He's doing physical training in the mountains for three weeks, and then he's going to go for a show, and then [training] camps in Italy and Spain with Mishin. I might join him in Spain, don't know yet. We have to figure out when it will be possible, but I believe June and July.