Alexei Zheleznyakov: “Figure skaters without the basics of classical dance training are not figure skaters; they are ‘flying stools.'”
Choreographer of Tutberidze’s group, Alexei Zheleznyakov about training process, choreography, new programs for Adelia Petrosyan and Sofia Akatieva’s injure.
How is Tutberidze’s group preparing for the test skates?
Alexei Zheleznyakov: Everything is going smoothly and like clockwork. It’s a system that has been developed over years. The skaters have rested and after their vacation, they start working on their programs.
They were in Novogorsk for almost two months. Programs were being choreographed there, gradual preparations for the season were underway, and everything follows a well-established and precise system. The team hasn’t changed for many years, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
The most challenging period [of choreographing programs] is for Daniil Gleikhengauz, as it requires a lot of imagination to find music and once again create masterpieces and leave everyone amazed at how great and beautiful it is. For him, it’s the most challenging and creative period.
For the rest of the athletes, it’s routine work that they perform every year. Nothing new happens for them. Someone might get injured, undergo treatment, while others are progressing well. That’s sports, anything can happen.
The choreographer has spoken about figure skater Adelina Petrosyan’s program to Michael Jackson.
Petrosyan is the winner of last season’s Grand Prix Final in Russia. Her new short program will be set to the songs “Earth Song,” “Billie Jean,” and “They Don’t Care About Us.”
“I believe that we should seek new images, movements. People are tired, they want more of a show, something that makes them go ‘wow,’ something that everyone says, ‘This is cool, this is new.’ I think Daniil (Gleikhengauz) is now going in that direction, it’s great, and it’s turning out very well.
Adelina Petrosyan will have Michael Jackson. It’s a very dynamic, strong program. With Jackson, you can’t make it anything less than powerful. You either skate to it or you don’t touch the material at all. You can’t just approach it haphazardly.
Our fans can expect an interesting competitive year in terms of programs. They will see something new, creative. I think they will enjoy it,” said Alexei Zheleznyakov, the choreographer of the Eteri Tutberidze group.
The choreographer mentioned that Sofya Akatieva needs to regain her physical condition after the injury.
Akatieva is the Russian national champion. In June, she suffered a stress fracture of her foot, but has already resumed on-ice training.
Did Sofya Akatieva’s injury somehow affect her choreography, her flexibility? Can you notice it in your sessions?
Alexei Zheleznyakov: The skill in terms of choreography has already been developed. Endurance and functionality are slightly affected, but not in terms of flexibility. Once you’ve developed flexibility, it doesn’t really go away, maybe just a little. That aspect recovers very quickly. However, it’s the athlete’s physical condition that needs to be restored, and that takes time.
Akatieva came to the dance studio, and practically nothing has changed. She moves just as well as she did before,.
Alexei Zheleznyakov talked about the importance of working with a choreographer for figure skaters.
Zheleznyakov is currently working with children at the I.S.A. Figure Skating Association’s training camps.
At the training camps, there are many children from different regions. How varied is the level of choreography?
Alexey Zheleznyakov: The level varies greatly. I’ve traveled to different cities for master classes and camps. For example, in Perm, there are talented and well-prepared kids. But there are situations where you arrive, and there isn’t even a classical choreographer in the team. And that’s the foundation.
Figure skaters without the basics of classical dance training are not figure skaters; they are what I often refer to as ‘flying stools.’ Beautiful positions, extended and turned-out legs – that’s all fundamental. Some places lack even this.
Currently, a very diverse group of kids has come to the training camp. Some of them can’t even walk with proper coordination. For a figure skater, this is nonsensical.
Where will these kids learn these skills if they don’t even have a basic classical choreographer, let alone versatile choreographers who can introduce different styles? Some places pay attention to this, while others ignore it.
Unfortunately, it looks very disheartening. Not all coaches have reached this understanding. Without a choreographer, you can’t make a proper ‘dish’ in the world of figure skating.