Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin: “Now there’s such a tendency to skate what suits you, find your style and move in this direction. But sports career isn’t such a long period of time, we wanted to try something new.
Interview with Russian Champions in ice dance Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin. About preparation for the Nationals with a new team, withdrawal of Victoria Sinitsina – Nikita Katsalapov, programs and post-Olympic plans.
source: fsrussia.ru by Tatjana Flade and Olga Ermolina
You won the national title the second year in a row. Can you compare the two Russian Nationals, when it was more difficult and why?
Alexandra Stepanova: It’s hard to compare, because a year ago the Russian Nationals was our first competition of the season. We didn’t set ourselves any big goals then, because we just needed to start competing after the break, skate our programs so that it didn’t look like a “failure” …
Ivan Bukin: The beginning of that season and its entire first half was not very good for us. We were sick, missed a lot …
Alexandra Stepanova: And in that situation, no one expected something extraordinary from us. It was the right decision to return the old free dance.
Ivan Bukin: Because then it was almost impossible to prepare this program. (“Romeo and Juliet” – ed.) And the old program had already been skated in competitions, in our heads, our body got used to it…
Alexandra Stepanova: As far as I remember, we skated in Chelyabinsk quite well for ourselves. And this Russian Nationals turned out to be completely different. Before that, we had already performed at two of Grand Prix and with the each competition we tried to correct something and improve our skating and programs. In addition, our coaches Irina Vladimirovna Zhuk and Alexander Vasilyevich Svinin involved Nikolai Alexandrovich Morozov, Alexei Yuryevich Gorshkov and a large group of specialists to work with our pair, including our choreographers, Alena Samarskaya and others. It turned out to be such a big team.
Ivan Bukin: This was necessary in order to speed up the preparation process, turn it in a slightly different direction, add fresh ideas, a new look …
Alexandra Stepanova: Therefore, this Russian Nationals was also interesting for us as an intermediate step, the result of the work done. We wanted to understand, to see how we managed to cope, because in a short period of time we have changed a lot in the training process and the nuances of the programs. And the results had to be shown at the Russian Nationals, and this event is always exciting and very important, especially in the Olympic season.
Ivan Bukin: It was difficult to prepare for this Nationals, since a lot of work was actually done. Different work, interesting and complex. The first two weeks after the Grand Prix in France was especially interesting – it was necessary to think about a large amount of information and not everything fit right in my head at once.
Alexandra Stepanova: Sometimes I even had a fear: how are we going to do this? In small pieces everything was cool, good – we enjoyed it. But there was a thought in my head, and what will happen when we skate full program, when will fatigue start? How to perform it well? But it turned out very well, even from the first skate.
Ivan Bukin: Eventually, we were able to put everything together. And from the way the audience supported us in “Yubileiny”, it was clear that everything worked out. Of course, later we reviewed our performances, noted some moments that need to be polished. In particular, we lacked a little speed in the free program, although emotionally it was much stronger than at the Grand Prix.
How did the fact that the leaders Victoria Sinitsina – Nikita Katsalapov withdrew due to injury, affect your mood before the free program? Were there thoughts like “victory is in our pocket, we can skate in half as hard”?
Alexandra Stepanova: It’s probably logical that in such situation, someone would have such thoughts, but not us. We did not see the guys in the warm-up room, but no one told us that they withdrew. We found out before stepping on the ice when it was announced on the arena. But there was no relaxation, on the contrary, we got a bit more nervous.
Ivan Bukin: In sports, different situations can happen and the most important thing is to understand what you need to do yourself: how to go on the ice, skate the program, think about your state, your partner, the task set for this competitions and what needs to be solved … I think this concentration did not allow us to get nervous or relax. We clearly understood that we wanted to show what we were working on, what we had managed to improve, and we almost succeeded. As I said, we lacked some speed in the free program, but this is not such a big problem, it is much easier to fix than psychological issues.
The ability to prepare yourself mentally before the competitions plays an important role. this season you missed the test skates, some competitions and started the season already at the Grand Prix, where you showed your new programs. Is it means that each competitions were overcoming?
Ivan Bukin: Yes, it is so. I do not know if this is good or bad, but we went to the Grand Prix, understanding what awaits us, what experiences, shocks can be there and what to do in such a situation. This did not cancel our worries, because it was the first event of the season and immediately the Grand Prix…
Alexandra Stepanova: A great desire to finally show the public our new programs helped us a lot. We choreographed a free dance a long time ago, but for objective reasons there was no opportunity to skate and improve it. And we really like the new short dance, and really wanted to present these programs.
The first Grand Prix was a little easier for us than the second. Despite the fact that some moments did not work out, by the end of the free program we got tired, but we were very charged emotionally and tried to perform on maximum.
And at the second Grand Prix, in addition to the desire to show our programs, there was a desire to get ahead of someone, we wanted everyone to notice how our programs improved between the Grand Prix. Therefore, in terms of emotions and nerves, the second Grand Prix was harder than the first.
Your new free program is “Romeo and Juliet”, which is often taken by figure skaters. What did attract you to this story?
Ivan Bukin: We have already said that a year ago we had exhibition program “Romeo and Juliet” choreographed for the Ilia Averbukh’s show, and we liked it.
Alexandra Stepanova: It was simple, without something extraordinary, but the idea itself was cool, so we and the coaches decided to make a free program.
The program turned out interesting. How do you think, why?
Alexandra Stepanova: It seems to me that an unusual selection of music played a role. From the first chords, if you don’t know the name, you don’t immediately understand what the program is about. And it makes you guess, get involved. If the famous melodies of “Romeo and Juliet” sounded right away, then everything would be clear: well, beautiful music, beautiful dance, which you watch as something “behind glass”. And in our program, thanks to the music, a certain riddle has appeared, and this makes the program interesting. And the music itself develops along the way and comes to a culmination.
Ivan Bukin: When Alexander Vasilyevich showed us the first musical part, we thought that it was not at all like “Romeo and Juliet” and there were even some concerns. But when he composed the whole music, it really turned out very unusual.
Alexandra Stepanova: I remember our first reaction, it was – wow! And the very idea that Irina Vladimirovna suggested to do something different from the classic versions of Romeo and Juliet was cool.
Ivan Bukin: In the first part of the program, musically, we do not touch on this story at all. There are no familiar musical phrases, references. And viewers who see the program for the first time perceive it at the level of emotions. What is happening on the ice takes on meaning only when the familiar musical theme of Romeo and Juliet begins to sound, it becomes clear what happened before. And we ourselves want to live this story on ice so that it is perceived as a story, and not as separate elements that make up the program. It is important to show our inner state, emotions, for the audience, so that they understand every movement.
Alexandra Stepanova: The program always reflects the inner world of the performer. When we grow up, the life situations that we face make us look differently, rethink some things. Changes are taking place in ourselves, in our relationships with people, with each other, and all this allows us to deeper reveal the themes that we show on the ice.
Ivan Bukin: It was difficult and at the same time very interesting for us to work on this program. We devoted a lot of time to every little thing that should catch the viewer, because everyone wants to stand out in some way, to be different, and in ice dance now it is difficult to do this.
It was important for us to try something new for ourselves, because now there is such a tendency to skate what suits you, find your style and move in this direction. And it looks cool, because you can open up and realize yourself as much as possible.
On the other hand, we understand that a sports career is not such a long period of time, and we would like to try ourselves in different styles, directions, roles … For example, hip-hop is a fun, impulsive dance where you give all of yourself and just enjoy it… Our free program is a deep love story that everyone takes in their own way.
You spoke in great detail about the programs that you will show in a few days at the European Championships, then the Olympic Games, and what next?
Alexandra Stepanova: After the Olympics, we will definitely continue to skate.
Ivan Bukin: And the nearest plans are scheduled for at least 3 months. The European Championships in Tallinn, the pre-Olympic training camp in Krasnoyarsk, the Olympics in Beijing … We hope that no surprises will happen, and the Olympic Games will be held on time.