Two-time World champions Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron have become huge names in the figure skating world in just the past three years. Skating fans will know that they took a huge leap from 13th at the 2014 World Championships to winning their first World title just a year later. Most recently, they won the free dance at the 2017 World Championships in Helsinki and finished second, just a couple points behind training mates Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir.
As they look toward their first Olympics next season, I had a quick chat with them about their off-season and their preparations for new programs, including some candid thoughts on the difficulties in tackling the short dance theme.
Jackie Wong: Thanks for taking the time for a quick chat today! How has your off-season been so far since Worlds?
Papadakis/Cizeron: The pleasure is ours! The off season has been good. We didn’t go on tour after Worlds for the first time and it has made us been able to rest and come back on the ice quickly to prepare the next season. We started with the choreography for the free dance. And it felt easy because we were so excited about the idea we had.
JW: So fun! Anything you want to tell your fans about your free dance yet? <wink wink>
P/C: We really want to reveal something but we decided to keep it a secret for now! We want to let the project grow a little more before we talk about it. The only thing we can tell is that we are so excited about it and can’t wait to perform it!
JW: Such a tease. But I'm sure skating fans will be looking forward to it. Next season is, of course, the Olympic season. The short dance pattern is the Rhumba, with upbeat Latin rhythms for the SD music. What's your approach to this theme?
P/C: Well, it’s very hard to reproduce Latin dances on the ice, because the dynamics of the dance is very different from the dynamics of skating. For example, we can’t roll our hips while gliding full speed on one foot. And it's also tricky because Latin dances on the floor aren’t usually done in closed holds, and closed holds are much more required in ice dance, especially in the short dance.
But for us, we realized that it is also these challenges that make the short dance next season very interesting. We want to figure out which movements from Latin dance we can translate on the ice and how we can do it effectively. We have been taking a lot of classes off ice to get inspiration and we’re having a lot of fun doing it!
Also, the music is always a touchy subject for Latin-themed ice dance, because of the rhythms, we just don't feel like we have as many choice as we had last year [for the blues, swing, and hip-hop theme], for example. We were a little scared at the beginning, because we remember when we were in juniors and everyone showed up with the same music for the Junior Grand Prix!
But the ISU added more genres and rhythms for this year [versus when we did Latin on the junior level], so we’ll see how this turns out.
JW: The last time you guys skated Latin was in the 2011-12 season, when you were both still juniors. How have you grown as dancers and what will you bring to this SD that will be different now that you're two-time World champions?
P/C: We had a lot of fun doing Latin that year. Junior is so different than senior, we didn’t have so much pressure on the music choice and we enjoyed every ballroom class we had the summer before.
Of course, we’ve grown a lot as skaters and dancers and we can’t really take that video of what we did as juniors and predict our future performances - well, we hope not, that would be pretty terrible ... hahaha! But we are for sure going to work a lot off-ice in dance classes to understand the movements and build a very smart short dance.
We love the free dance because we are allowed to completely express ourselves and our personalities, and do whatever we want. But the short dance is always fun and interesting because it always makes you do something different and traditional. For us, the short dance is sort of like putting on a mask, while the free dance is more of a chance to uncover ourselves to the audience. But both are very interesting and they complement each other really well.
JW: How are you feeling about the Olympic season coming up?
P/C: We are very excited about the upcoming season! This is going to be our first Olympic season, so we feel a little bit like the babies here. We will have a lot of pressure being a medal contender but when we feel it too much, we just remind ourselves that the last time the Olympic were happening, we weren’t even in the top two skaters in our country! It helps putting things in perspective. We feel so blessed with where we are now.