The Russian Figure Skating Federation held its annual test skate for the national team in September where skaters presented their new programs to both the press and public.
This year, the event played out over four days (Sept. 4-5 and 7-8) in Moscow. Not all skaters were present and not all showed their competitive programs, but most did showing that they are ready for the new season.
September 7 was marred by the plane crash that took the lives of the Jaroslawl ice hockey team and a minute of silence was observed at the beginning.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov unveiled their new programs, “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence for the short and “Black Swan” for the long. However, they used a version of Evanescence with lyrics. “The other version isn’t ready yet, but it will be very good,” said coach Nina Mozer. The World silver medalists included a not yet perfect throw triple flip in the short program, a new element for them. The couple looked in good shape and nailed the big tricks in the long program, although they were tired after a more than three-hour bus ride from their training base in Novogorsk.
Their bus got stuck in the infamous Moscow traffic jams. “We skated not bad considering the circumstances,” Trankov said. “Obviously we can do better, and we were a little behind the music and we didn't finish the pair spin at the end in time with the music. Basically we are pleased and if we are able to skate the program as well as we did today without major errors I think we will be well prepared and after some rest we can skate much better.”
Trankov said he liked the musical theme right away when he watched the movie “Black Swan” and felt it would be the perfect choice. “When I was watching the movie, I thought that the hero, Nathalie Portman, on the ice is Tania,” Trankov explained. “When we teamed up last year and perform to Carl Orff, all the choreographers wanted Tania to be more demonic. After I watched the movie, I went to Tania and told her, ‘You have to see it, this is about you.’
“We tried to do everything like in the movie. In the beginning Tatiana is sleeping and in her dream she sees how I am bewitching her. We didn't choose the part of the prince for me but the part of a magician. I am doing magic over her and she wakes up and she starts to dream about being a swan. In the middle we have the moment of seduction like in the movie, and in the end she loses her mind. We still have to do a lot. We didn't work on the choreography yet at all, there are still many inaccuracies and we only cleaned up the first part a little.
“We are still holding back with the moves, but the program should completely unfold by Russian Nationals or the European Championships. And further into the season, because it is hard to show all the emotions right away,” he added.
Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov also found the short program music themselves. They recalled Stéphane Lambiel skated to the music at the “Art on Ice” shows in Switzerland and over the summer they remembered it when they were deciding on the short program theme.
Both denied feeling any pressure after winning the silver medal in their debut as a team at the World Championships in Moscow. “We don't feel a lot of pressure and we try not to pay attention to that. We know ourselves what we want and we try to achieve it. We are pushing each other, scolding each other, praising each other — we are only putting pressure on ourselves,” Trankov said.
He also pointed out that there are other strong pairs teams in Russia, notably Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov. The 2011 European silver medalists debuted their new short program to Joe Satriani’s well-known Blues piece. Kavaguti sported a new, fluffy hairstyle and they also skated well. “We were both a little sick and returned to the ice not so long ago,” Smirnov said. “But the test skates are a good opportunity to see where we are at.”
The couple decided to keep last season’s free skate to Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.” Their coach Tamara Moskvina was missing from the second test skates as she underwent knee surgery in St. Petersburg, but a few days later she was back on to the ice working with her students.
Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze have kept their successful “Figaro” short program and presented the second half of their new long program to “A Chorus Line,” a program that suits them both very well.
Katarina Gerboldt and Alexander Enbert and Anastasia Martiusheva and Alexei Rogonov performed as well but made errors. Gerboldt and Enbert made fast progression when they teamed up but the progress seemed to have slowed down over the summer or the programs just weren’t so polished yet.
Martiusheva and Rogonov is a beautiful looking pair with interesting programs but she continues to struggle with the jump elements.
Vera Bazarova and Juri Larionov had to sit out the last two days as she had problems with one of her skating boots.
The up and coming girls are something Russian figure skating is proud of, but not many were present at the test skate on the last two days. Julia Lipnitskaya was preparing for her Junior Grand Prix debut in Poland and Ksenia Makarova fell sick. Adelina Sotnikova didn’t participate as she was taking a rest after a heavy training workload over the summer.
Alena Leonova started to work full-time with Nikolai Morozov following the World Championships but is still consulting former head coach Alla Piatova. Lenova, who ranked fourth at Europeans and Worlds, showed two new programs. For the short, she picked a version of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and for the long “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber and “Requiem for a Tower.” The free skating especially shows Leonova from a different side and proves that she can do more than funny programs.
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva came to Moscow with two new routines as well. The World junior silver medalist matured in her expression over the summer. Her short program is set to a Tango by Astor Piazzolla and the free skating is a Latin medley. Not all jumps worked in the run-through, but she landed a nice triple Lutz-triple toe in the warm up.
Sofia Biriukova, a student of Viktoria Volchkova, only skated her new short program to “Seven Years in Tibet” including a triple toe-triple toe.
Five ice dance teams were present. Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov who missed the first two days, as they didn’t feel well following their trip home from the U.S. The short dance is set to “Hip Hip Chin Chin” and “Mujer Latina,” pieces that were used by Olympic Champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in past seasons.
The dance has potential but was lacking passion, which is not surprising as it is early in the season and the couple wasn’t at a 100 percent yet. “We chose this music, because it sets us on fire and we really like it, regardless that Tessa and Scott used it,” Katsalapov explained.
“Many others have used this music before them,” added Ilinykh. “We've worked with the World champion Maxim Kozhevnikov who did a number to this music himself. He said that it is a winning theme. I don't think that it will be compared to them (Virtue and Moir) because we are doing something different.” Coach Morozov and the couple decided not to show their free dance on the second day, but they performed elements of the dance to different music and showed some new lifts.
“We didn't want to fill peoples’ heads with this music so that they get fed up with it, to put it bluntly,” explained Katsalapov. “Plus here this can be considered as an exhibition and I think it was great to skate for the Russian audience to this beautiful music.” Ilinykh and Katsalapov are very happy with the coaching switch to Morozov that they made in May. “From the very first day when we went to Kolia it seemed to us that this is so new and so interesting that each minute on the ice was a great pleasure,” Katsalapov said.
“Nikolai is on the ice for 12 hours. He doesn't eat and drink. Looking at him you can't allow yourself even to rest. You go for a break take 15 minutes between practices, but the man is standing on the ice all the time and you take your skates and go back on to the ice.”
Ilinykh agreed. “The approach is totally new and different. There is training from the morning to the evening and Kolia is going all out in each practice. He gives us many interesting things that we didn't know before.” The couple worked with Broadway dancers as did Morozov’s other students over the summer. “We worked with ballroom dancers. They showed us first some basic elements and then combinations for the short program. We also worked with them on hip hop, meaning that we tried to strengthen the body and we learned some new moves,” she said.
“Basically most of the work was done on the ice, so we spent a lot of time on the ice and it took quite a long time to put the program together as we chose the steps to be a 100 percent comfortable,” Katsalapov added.
Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkatchenko looked well prepared, but their programs need more mileage as well. Their short dance to Rhumba and Samba contained nice transitions but needs a little more fire. The free dance to “Romance “ from Georgi Sviridov is a beautiful program with elements seamlessly woven into the program. Only the reverse rotational lift in the middle of the program looked heavy and marred the otherwise positive impression.
“We will change the lift,” Riazanova confirmed. “We will think of something else.” Their season debut will delayed as they had to withdraw from the Nebelhorn Trophy end of September. “My new passport is not ready,” Tkachenko explained. “I am a member of the army sport club and so I need documents from the army, but they are very slow to issue them. I applied for a new passport before my vacation in June. Hopefully it will be ready in time for the Grand Prix.”
Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov are still falling behind and looked weaker than the two junior teams. She stumbled in the Rhumba short dance and the Tango free dance lacked character.
The two junior dance teams, Viktoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin and Evgenia Kosygina and Nikolai Moroshkin, were, not surprisingly, in good shape as they have to be ready for the Junior Grand Prix.
Sinitsina and Zhiganshin were convincing in both short and free dance (to “Phantom of the Opera”) and both have grown as performers.
Kosygina and Moroshkin looked also good but need to up the difficulty of some elements.
European silver medalists Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev attended the first test skates. Their free dance is set to excerpts from the opera “Margarethe” by Charles Gounod and featured difficult elements. World junior champions Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin were unable to participate as he came down with an illness. The same happened to Ivan Bukin so that he and partner Alexandra Stepanova were missing as well.
Five men showed their programs on the final two days. Russian champion Konstantin Menshov landed a quad toe on both days and looked in better shape than usual at this time of the year. He has two new programs: the short is set to “Men in Black II,” the long to a strange music mix of “Black Machine,” “Kill Bill” and “Clair de Lune.” Menshov explained that he is playing the role of a motorcycle racer trying to escape from the traffic jams in Moscow or St. Petersburg.
Artur Gachinski, the surprise bronze medalist at the World Championships is determined to prove that it wasn’t a fluke. He has two new programs as well, a jazzy short and a long to music from “Interview with a Vampire,” “Dracula” and “The Count of Monte Christo.”
“It is the story of a demon. The program is titled ‘The Demon.’ The idea is that I am a demon who got caught on earth,” he explained. “I try to find a way out and try to understand what I need to do here on earth. There is agony and in the search I find a girl that I really love. I am torn between taking the girl with me or killing myself and in the end I kill myself.”
The mood of the short program is lighter. “So far the idea is a relaxed, drunk man who is just dancing by himself and enjoying himself a lot,” Gachinski said.
American Tom Dickson, who came up with the ideas, choreographed both programs. During the summer, Gachinski also worked with Stéphane Lambiel who attended Alexei Mishin’s training camp as a coach. “Stéphane worked with us and it was very nice and interesting for me,” Gachinski said. “He showed me how to skate, to spin and to express the choreography.”
Gachinski didn’t land a quad in the test skates, but most of the other jumps worked. Overall the 18-year-old has developed a softer skating style and showed more complex choreography than in the past. But he is planning to add more difficulty. “I am working on quad Salchow and loop and we plan with Alexei Nikolaevitch (Mishin) to include them in the second half of the season,” he revealed.
Sergei Voronov is hoping for a comeback this season after finishing off the podium at 2011 nationals and subsequently not going to Europeans or Worlds. He is in his second year working with Morozov who came with two new programs for the test skates. Both are very different.
The two-time Russian champion portrays a soccer player in the light-hearted short program and a desperate husband in the dramatic long program to “Pagliacci” by Ruggero Leoncavallo. “I am a betrayed husband who is killing his wife. The story is very tragic and one of the most dramatic ever, like Romeo and Juliet,” Voronov explained.
“The music is very powerful and I like it a lot. Nikolai suggested it and I never even thought about objecting. The short program again is the idea of Nikolai. He said, we have to try it, it is something totally different (from the free skating), and I like soccer. The music is playful and absolutely different from the free program. I like it, it has drive.”
The crowd really liked it, especially the step sequence. Voronov said that he is still bothered by pain in his foot but that it has improved. However, he didn’t include a Lutz or a flip in his programs.
Zhan Bush is still junior-eligible but his coach Alexei Urmanov and he decided that he would skate at the senior level in order to push his development. Bush learned the quad toe over the summer but didn’t land a clean one at the test skate. He also struggled with some other jumps. His music choices are somewhat weird, with a kind of heavy metal version of “Carmen” for the free and rock version of Beethoven for the short.
Ivan Tretiakov didn’t change his short (“Valse Triste”) and his skating basically looked the same as in the past also in the long program to soundtracks by Ennio Morricone.
Evgeni Plushenko showed up for the first test skates and performed his exhibition program to “Je suis malade” which included some triple Axels. “Evgeni is skating very well”, said his longtime coach Mishin. But after his knee surgery he does not want to push himself too hard right now.
Originally published in October 2011