Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Svinin/Zhuk

TAHbKA

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Elena Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Irina Zhuk and Alexandr Svinin for ria.ru (please click the original link and all that jazz..)

EV: For many years you didn't let the outside choreographers to work with your athletes. It was true at the time with Khokhlova/Novitski and recently with Stepanova/Bukin. Are you lacking trust to the outside world that you'd rather work with Irina Zhuk alone and not let anyone in?
AS: More like when we were skating ourselves we had some great teachers. Tarasova, Tchaikovskaya. Besides we had a vast theatrical experience. We were part of Tarasova's ice theatre and participated many shows after. When we started coaching it was weird for me the dancers were not integrating some moves that would push figure skating further.

EV: So you put it all out with Khokhlova/Novitski?
AS: Yeah. We used to have a very limited ice time back then, hence we were not able to practice much. When the new rules were introduced and the technical specialists and all that we set the goal not to follow those rules necessarily, which would be impossible taking the lack of hte ice time, but to be memorable. For the judges, the audience. Otherwise we had no chance.
Of course first we had no one but each other to trust. We couldn't, say hire some specialists like it's done now, we simply couldn't afford it. With the time we realized our knowledge only is not enough.

EV: In what exactly?
AS: Well, take the lifts for example. We had a certain amount that we kept updating, but the rules changed and we needed to find the acrobats who would not only be creative but teach the skaters the basics. The ice dance is not about the pure acrobatics. You can't really do a circus trick: stop, get ready, jump. It has to be integrated with the music and the programme. Hence it's not only the acrobats who work with our skaters on the lifts - they do all the preparations work and come up with the ideas, while Irina and I put it on the ice and make it part of the style.

EV: Did you ever wonder why after coming up with such a standing our pair as Khokhlova/Novitskii their programme for the Olympic season was a flop. Why did you fail?
AS: I don't know. We had so many music options for that season. But the first time we heard the `Medowland' - the interpretation, the orchestra, the sheer power of the music we thought it was a masterpiece we must use. But skating that programme was too hard. It happens quite often and not only in our group: if the athlete can not keep up with the music - that music will swallow him. The more you try to work on the programme the worse it gets. That what happened to the `Meadowland'. Sometimes the easy music makes the athlete look better.

EV: Was it hard working with an external specialist for the first time?
IZ: Of course it was. For both us and the athletes. For me, as a choreographer, the new programme is always a source of panic. Every single year. But it's the same for everyone, I think. Till the last moment am not certain things will work. Yet every season somehow it was ok. Just once we made a mistake - with Khokhlova/Novitski when picking a wrong programme for the Olympics season. But even then we were able to spot the error fast and fix it by creating a new programme. Why had we started working with the external specialists? Not because we lost faith in our abilities, but because we decided to try something new. Last season we asked Peter Tchernyshev to choreograph. We were hardly present while he was working. Elena Buyanova gave us some ice time in TSKA and the guys were spending the nights there working for 7-8 hours every day.

EV: Why nights?
IZ: Because Peter's schedule is very busy. I usually choreograph quite fast, but in that case the work took almost a month. We were already starting to get worried something goes wrong, but once we saw some parts of the programme we loved it. It was the first experience working with Tchernyshev.

EV: How much had working with the external specialists change your duo?
IZ: A lot. First we never worked for 7-8 hours in a row. I was first afraid the guys will not be able to cope. We were also afraid Stepanova/Bukin will end up not being in shape - they were working on the small parts and were not able skating full force and work on their steps. But it turned out quite the opposite: they improved their second mark, they became better. On one hand, I guess, they felt some kind of freedom working without the coaches, on the other hand they had a new responsibility on their shoulders and had to grow up.

EV: What was the choreographing process this year like?
IZ: Stepanova/Bukin's FD is ours. I think the guys missed working with me. The SD is by Ilya Averbukh and it's an interesting one.

EV: Are you sorry you haven't started working with the choreographers earlier?
IZ: Not at all. Guess the time now was right. Stepanova/Bukin had to grow up before. When Khokhlova/Novitskii were skating it was out of character for the Russian ice dance to have an external choreographer. Now it's the fashion, everyone invites the external one, even for the juniors. Though, frankly, I don't really see a point. First it's very expensive. Second take Montreal where Dubreuil/Lauzon work - they choreograph themselves and don't call anyone. They just follow a lot of shows and look for the new ideas all the time. Well, I'm doing the same.

EV: Do you sometimes disagree?
IZ: All the time. Svinin is never happy. Besides, we are very different emotionally. I am very loud both in scorning and praising. Alexandr is more reserved. Even when I feel that my work is great he will never tell `Irina, you are amazing'. I am still waiting for it...

EV: For several years we've witnessed the technical gap between the top teams is null. Everyone can do the lvl4 elements and it seems you have to stand out in order to medal. How do you do that?
AS: In general we were satisfied with both programmes for Stepanova/Bukin last season. It's hard to get the athletes to keep up with a fast programme, and do all the elements well. Skating a slow programme is easier: you are not out of breath, you are not out of power and there is more time to complete every move. But integrating the fast and the slow parts in my books is more interesting.

EV: Is it rewarding?
AS: Unfortunately I can't really tell the judges reward the fast programmes.

EV: Then what is it all for? It seems in your attempt to amaze the audience and stand out you just miss out?
AS: I think the time when the judges will boost those who chose the hard way will come. It is more interesting to watch than the same slow programmes year after year.

EV: You mean Papadakis/Cizeron?
AS: No, it's more about the leaders being different. What a 4 times world champions can afford is not allowed for anyone else. Papadakis/Cizeron's programmes are great. But if we will skate the same programmes every year and not change a thing we'll find ourselves very far from the podium. Hence we have to stand out. So we try and we do the lifts that differ from what everyone else is doing. During several season we integrated the sit twizzles, which the judges did not encourage at all, yet that's what we are remembered for. We created new lifts, new spins. We put more effort on musicality. What Papadakis/Cizeron are better at? They are so musical, flowing, every move is correct, there is no out of place gesture.

EV: How hard is picking the right music, the right programme?
AS: You have to start thinking about it before the season ends. It's hard to create the programmes at the very last minute. When you find the theme it becomes easier. But the process is so painful you want to jump off the roof sometimes. We are not a theatre, where people come and read the synopsis first. Hence the athletes must know exactly what are they depicting. Perhaps then they will be able to project the characters. Though the same music might mean different things to different people.

EV: Speaking of which: you and Irina had coaches with a huge musical knowledge. The situation now, however, that anyone can become a judge if they pass an exam. Even if they never even attended a theatre show. Does it happen the judges have no clue what the programme is about?
AS: Probably, like in any profession. But it does not mean we have to sink that low. We prefer to count on the judges to be the professionals and hope they are a majority. But a good question indeed.

EV: Recently there was quite a big internet discussion about a show number Glekhengauze did for Zagitova, copying a dance by another choreographer. Does it ever happen to you when you see something very interesting in someone else's choreography to take it and put it on the ice?
IZ: The whole dance - no, but I did use some moves. It's something everyone does. I watch a lot of dance on the floor and can pretty much point where Papadakis/Cizeron ideas are from, where Marina Zueva took her moves when working with Davis/White or Virtue/Moir. If the choreographer is not particularly knowledgeable they start borrowing his colleagues' ideas. It happens in our sports. I think it's wrong. It's a lack of self respect.

EV: I always thought it was a good thing you and Svinin have a completely different approach. I was sure your athletes would never need a shrink to work with.
IZ: Yet we have one on the team.

EV: Why? Aren't you afraid working with someone who might influence the athletes?
IZ: The shrinks might indeed be dangerous in getting the athletes to a wrong direction. Yet our team is a chain. If one link is gone all might dissolve. Zhanna Simak is a great part of our team. Otherwise we would not be able to work with her. On one hand we never needed such a specialist, on the other we tried working together and loved it. Frankly, we use her help as well, because it's hard working on the top level for so many years.

EV: You burn out professional?
IZ: Emotionally. You become mean and nervous. We need to load it off. Svinin and I don't want to get too close to the athletes, we understand how things work and how many are there who want to be their best friends like: you guys are all grown up, kudos, you overgrew your coaches. You should switch to...
It's nice knowing there is a person who works with you together and who you can completely trust. We have a great team of young specialists: Volobuev, Yakushev, Samarskaya. Volobuev passed the technical specialist exam, he even thinks differently now.

EV: I knew you wanted your pupil Rubleva to join your team, but she preferred to work separately. At what point your pupil becomes a rival?
IZ: All the coaches are rivals. We are careful with them. I know Svinin feels the same.

EV: How hard is it being objective about your work?
AS: Quite hard. If you get some external specialists point of view you get a clearer picture. Which is what we are trying to do. We always invite, say, Alla Shekhovtsova. I think she is one of the not so many world class specialists in our country who not only knows all there is to know about the ice dance, but can give the right advice. We are consulting with her all the time, ever since Khokhlova/Novitski.

EV: A couple of years ago while Bobrova/Soloviev were skating their coach Zhulin said he can't come up with anything to make their skating better. Did you ever feel the same with Stepanova/Bukin?
AS: I think Zhulin meant his skaters performed to the top of their abilities for that programme in that competition. It's the same for us this season. At Europeans and the Worlds. But I would never say it's the limit. I know: next season they must be better and show more.

EV: When people skate on such a level for many years even the smallest step forward is a huge work. What will you be working on to make that step?
AS: It's for a reason we started working with the other choreographers. I am not saying the programmes Irina and I did for our skaters were not good enough but in order to broaden the experience it's good to work with someone else. Tchrenyshev got out of Stepanova/Bukin things we had no idea they had in them. The guys felt it as well. And, most importantly, understood it's up to them. For the same reason we invited Alexandr Nesterov - the acting teacher. And Ilya Averbukh to work with them on the SD.


EV: I think Averbukh creates programmes that the judges will 100% like.
AS: True. First he has a huge choreographing experience, he knows how the public would react. The audience is a huge deal. When the audience is behind the skaters the judges are influenced. As for the SD we first and most of all asked it to be creative, and not just the right element. Ilya ended up going really far with the programme.

EV: When Stepanova/Bukin became 2nd in Minsk I didn't have a feeling it was because of Sinitsina/Katsalapov's fall. What did they lack in order to medal at the Worlds?
AS: A tough question. They were really ready both in Minsk and Saitama. It's just the small details. I think Stepanova/Bukin skated well for that season. Why did it happen at the worlds? Well, ice dance is not the sports where you run faster and win.

EV: Did their 4th place at Worlds hurt their motivation?
IZ: First, after they got the small bronze medals for the SD it was quite a blow. It was visible. I was standing there and trying to smile, but I couldn't hide how disappointed I was we were off the podium. Even though before the competition it was clear two Russian pairs would not medal. Not in ice dance. No way. It's possible in the singles skating - land your quads and the judges have no choice. Yet they will always find a way in the ice dance.

EV: How do you motivate knowing `they will not let you'?
IZ: We have to come up with the new things that will not allow to downgrade us. Am an optimist. I think we have to work no matter what. Stepanova/Bukin were skating really well last season as well, yet they were 7th at the Worlds. Now they finished the Euros just 3 points behind Papadakis/Cizeron in the SD. So things are changing? We just have to hold it for a bit longer and keep thinking of the future.

EV: What had Stepanova/Bukin improve the most during the summer?
IZ: The amplitude. They are so huge! Their moves and gliding is so big. I don't even understand where did it come from. Perhaps they are more experience, perhaps the programmes allow it. Besides, we are working on the steps all the time, we come up with the new moves which we don't show anywhere not even during the warm up. We don't want them to be stolen. No one does it and we see how our system works on both juniors and the seniors.

EV: Your juniors Shevchenko/Eremenko won the GPF last year, took a medal at the Junior worlds. What is the hardest when switching from the Juniors to Seniors?
IZ: The juniors get some crazily high levels and marks in their competitions. And they start thinking they will get the same in the seniors. And then wham! they are 20 points back. It's very hard mentally. But we prepare our teams for that as well.

EV: What is more interesting technically - the juniors or the seniors to work with?
IZ: It's more interesting experimenting with the kids, because you are fearless. It's a different sort of responsibility with the seniors. So we try some things on the kids. If we see it works well we use it with the seniors. It helps everyone to grow faster. This season except for Stepanova/Bukin we have two more seniors teams- Shpilevaya/Smirnov and Shevchenko/Eremenko. They are competing with each other, but we teach them to respect each other and not be afraid of the competitions. We always set Virtue/Moir and Davis/White as an example. For 4 years they skated in the same group and no one could get near. Because they were competing with each other all the time. They were smart enough not to switch coaches. The result was that everyone knew they can only aim for bronze. That's what we espire for.

EV: I.e. Virtue/Moir and Davis/White gave the perfect scheme how to gain the highest results?
IZ: They have for me. Frankly: we are afraid of parting ways with one of those teams, but mainly because it will break the competition.
 

thvu

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EV: What had Stepanova/Bukin improve the most during the summer?
IZ: The amplitude. They are so huge! Their moves and gliding is so big. I don't even understand where did it come from. Perhaps they are more experience, perhaps the programmes allow it. Besides, we are working on the steps all the time, we come up with the new moves which we don't show anywhere not even during the warm up. We don't want them to be stolen. No one does it and we see how our system works on both juniors and the seniors.
I almost spit up my drink reading this! This reads as delusional and paranoid to me (or just a really bad attempt at politiking.)
 

Bigbird

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I almost spit up my drink reading this! This reads as delusional and paranoid to me (or just a really bad attempt at politiking.)

We are apparently quite clueless to the depth of ruthlessness and paranoia that is Russian figure skating period. Have you taken a whiff of the Stolbova backlash from journalists and coaches yet? She and partner have not made one step or stroke on public ice not even once. I completely understand why Ilinykh didn't need the aggravation.
 

thvu

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@Bigbird , for me, it was more about Zhuk’s grandiose opinion if S&B, that somehow they have these amazing signature moves other teams are just waiting to steal.

I had no idea teams were itching to see how inventive their posing will be, or that teams were seemingly lining up to copy their traveling sit spins they kept masquerading as twizzles! :lol:
 

Tinami Amori

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We are apparently quite clueless to the depth of ruthlessness and paranoia that is Russian figure skating period.
I am not clueless on the depth of your paranoia and exaggeration of everything that happens in Russia. You're probably clueless on the paranoia and ruthlessness between other countries' skaters.
  • a US dance team trying to prevent Belbin from getting US citizenship..
  • P/C hopping that V/M "stumble" during FS at the olys..
  • Jourbert in his skating days saying "Yagudin will train me and disclose the secrets what Pluschenko does to win"..
  • Yuna Kim accusing Orser of negotiating with Asada behind her back..
  • Korean ladies accusing Japanese ladies of bullying them during warm ups..
  • Wagner "pissed off at the judges for purposefully giving her low marks to hold her off the team"..
  • some people suspecting Wagner of intentionally throwing in her FS at Skate America..
  • Lysacek starting a campaign against Weir for his costumes "being too gay"..
... oh, then there is Tonya Harding and the knee wack... ;)
 

Bigbird

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@Bigbird , for me, it was more about Zhuk’s grandiose opinion if S&B, that somehow they have these amazing signature moves other teams are just waiting to steal.

I had no idea teams were itching to see how inventive their posing will be, or that teams were seemingly lining up to copy their traveling sit spins they kept masquerading as twizzles! :lol:


They've always had a grandiose opinion of S/B but Aleksandra's opinion of herself is even greater than that. So that part is really old news.

EDIT: Tell that to Kustarova and Alexeeva. And if only the judges (home and international) would mark them down for the ridiculous sit spins and posing.
 
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nuge

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Are Stepanova/Bukin's coaches married?
Stepanova has potential to be top diva so let her be ;)
 

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