Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: “Competitions are my burnout remedy”
Interview with Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. About choreography and different styles, connection between figure skating and Russian theatre and professional burnout.
source: sobaka.ru dd. 18th August, 2021 by Mariya Agafonova and Yuri Smekalov
For many years now, choreographers from the theatrical or ballet sphere have been invited to do choreo for figure skaters – Chelidze, Varnava, Pimenov … Me, after all! I think it’s time to start a revolution and bring in professional hip-hop teachers. What do you think?
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: In addition to hip-hop, I would also add jazz, but I would invite dancers as experts at the very end – to the ready-made product. So that they can point to specific movements, suggest elements. I would not be able to entrust a hip-hop dancer to do my program completely – I need a person who knows me and sees the whole picture.
What role would you like to play on the ice?
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: I’ve never skated a comic theme. Didn’t use funny artistic images. And I really want to try!
You can do it. You have sense of humor, you are very lively, cheerful. And it seems to me, there are not so many such cheerful athletes in figure skating. Concentration and strict execution of the task – it’s one thing. Playfulness is different thing. Many lacks it. Tell us, which programs of your colleagues do you consider to be reference programs?
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: I really like Nathan Chen’s short program to Benjamin Clementine from the 2018 Olympic, Kamila Kalieva’s short program “Girl on the Ball” and Carolina Kostner’s short program to French chanson.
I have an idea! I came up with a comic program for you. I know that Alexei Nikolaevich Mishin really likes the image of Charlie Chaplin.
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: Oh yes.
I’m sure Chaplin in female interpretation, in your vision, will be cool. Leonid Yakobson also had a miniature ballet Vestris to the music of Gennady Banshchikov, which he staged especially for Mikhail Baryshnikov. I advise you to open YouTube right now and watch – this is an absolutely unique job. This is the Teatro del Arte, when the main character in a starched wig and camisole takes on different images – an old man, an eccentric woman, a child, an ignoramus, a womanizer, and so on. That’s very beautiful. If stylized as the Italian Renaissance, it will be a fantastic.
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: Alexei Nikolaevich will like it. Returning to the topic of the choreographer, I remembered how I have once worked with Shae-Lynn Bourne, who, in my opinion, is one of the most brilliant choreographers of our time. She used to be a professional figure skater and knows well how the movement will look on the ice. For me, this is the best option.
Why is it difficult to transfer choreography from floor to ice?
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: When we stage on the floor, we do not fully work out the technical elements of skating – rockers, counters, turns. The most difficult thing is to transfer the arms together with legs so that they are combined with the movement of the skate and do not contradict it.
Let’s tell the reader how the work on choreography generally starts in figure skating.
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: First, we look and choose artistic images that we want for the new season. Second, the choreographer analyzes the athlete, gets to know his condition and sees what he can cope with and what he cannot. Third – we search for a music, arrange and edit it for the program. And that’s all, then we work! At the very end, when the program is done, a coach joins us. Alexei Nikolaevich makes adjustments: he says where to remove the movement, where to add it. There is usually no argues, only if you need to add steps somewhere, when the program is almost done. It’s always a very exciting moment for me when a coach judge the choreography.
What is fashionable in choreography now?
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: Contemporary music, which you can use to skate modern. They are slowly abandoning the classics, looking for young composers who can offer something new. For example, in the fall of 2020, I skated a free program to the music of Bhima Yunusov, a cool young composer who works with rapper Husky. And in February of this year, at the last moment, I decided to change the music from Aram Khachaturian’s ballet to the Lovely by Billie Eilish and Khaild.
And it was cool! Your works are very different in genres, filled with drama and character flamboyance. When I think about it, I imagine that the school of the legendary coach Alexei Mishin and his athletes can be turned into an institution for improving dance education.
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: What do you mean?
Now it all starts with the choreographer choosing a style and genre for you. But if you, skaters, learned to dance in parallel with skating, you would be ready for what is expected of you. And you could have shown more initiative. The Russian school of figure skating is very much connected with the theater, with ballet, we have a powerful background for dramatic action. If we take the Olympics as an example, then one program, a short one, corresponds to modern trends, and another program, free program, is a mini-performance, a performance in which the inner world of the hero is revealed and insane technique is used.
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: If you think about it, when judges assess my work, they first look at the technique, then at the components. Choreography is the points for the components: it is very important for the athlete to feel the music and show it beautifully, and not just memorized. For me, as a figure skater, this is a fundamental moment – to invest in movements myself and be able to change something.
And if not figure skating? What would you do?
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: Well, they wouldn’t take me to ballet with my physique. (Laughs.) Therefore, I would do Latin American dances professionally.
You have a very intense life and career. Tell me, what about burnouts?
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: For me, burnout is devastation and a situation where there is not a single strong emotion to hold onto. This is the moment when you cannot enter the training process, everything seems to be monotonous. But I can handle it. It helps me a lot when I take two days off and don’t think about figure skating, I switch. Either I go to a competitions, go on the ice and feel the adrenaline rush. Yes, competitions are my burnout remedy.
You ironically call yourself “a figure skater of Balzac’s age.” Seriously, how do you see your future?
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: Now I want one thing: to get to the Olympics. This is my goal. While I am preparing in the usual way, I do not relax, I work – I will squeeze the maximum out of myself this season. And then, perhaps, I will switch to programs for the show. In gala programs you can show yourself much brighter than in programs for competitions. But first – the Olympic Games!
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