Why does Kamila Valieva need quadruple jumps? Do we need an alternative to the International Skating Union (ISU)? Why are ice shows in Russia thriving despite the predictions of skeptics? Prize-winners of the European and World Championships in ice dancing Margarita Drobyazko and Povilas Vanagas answered these questions in detail in an interview with Sport.
“There is wild competition in Russia”
– You already You have been performing in Tatyana Navka’s show for several years, before that you were regular participants in Ilya Averbukh’s performances. For you, are these projects a means of earning money or an opportunity to satisfy a feeling of nostalgia for sports?
Povilas Vanagas:Earning money is important for everyone, but for us it is a job that we love very much; it gives us mental and spiritual satisfaction. We thank God every day for giving us the opportunity to participate in ice shows. The projects, the progenitor of which in Russia was Ilya Averbukh, are a real ice theater. There are no analogues in the world. And the fact that we found ourselves in a time and place where we were able to find ourselves in the roles of performers of different characters, first from Ilya, and then from Tanya Navka, is truly a miracle for us.
strong>Margarita Drobyazko: From a creative point of view, Ilya and Tatyana are doing slightly different projects with different approaches, so it is impossible to consider one of them a leader. But in terms of how Tatyana has developed with the number of shows that are taking place simultaneously, it is already difficult to compete with her.
– Well-known producer and agent Ari Zakarian several months ago spoke about the danger of oversaturation of ice shows in Russia, which at one time led to the decline of this phenomenon in the United States. What do you say about this opinion?
PV: We heard such forecasts from Mr. Zakarian seven or eight years ago, when he said: “Well, that’s it, this is the last year, a maximum of a year and a half, and all this will pass.” But this prophecy will not come true, and thank God. The problem in America was the same performers who performed almost the same programs to different music. They didn’t have time to stage anything serious, because there were a huge number of these shows, they involved a lot of money, very large fees. And there was no serious competition, which apparently ruined the market.
In Russia, the competition is simply wild. These are, first of all, the projects of Tatyana Navka, Ilya Averbukh, Evgeni Plushenko, and then there are a million more different projects from different directors.
– When – you and Averbukh and his partner Irina Lobacheva competed very fiercely in sports, you managed to compete with Navka and Kostomarov, but this did not stop you from becoming not only business partners, but also friends.
PV: Probably this is due to the fact that if you have a tough showdown with someone on the ice, then this is not always transferred to life outside of it.
MD:There are people for whom some of their failures in sports are so important that they cannot part with them. They remember the grievances, how they were not given something… For us, all these memories disappeared instantly when we left the sport and began to engage in creativity, which was always much closer to us than competitions. For us, it is more important than titles.
– Are you interested in dancing now?
PV: From a technical point of view the guys do fantastic things – lifts, step patterns, rotations. In our time this was not the case. But if we talk about figure skating as an art, then when we performed, the programs were technically simpler, but much more interesting. Then, at the World Championships, out of 30 pairs, it was interesting for us to watch, relatively speaking, 22, and now at a maximum of 8-10.
MD:What is currently included in the program? Endless twizzles that do everything – spin, spin… Well, yes, everyone can spin. But the viewer is not very interested in watching whether the skater put his second leg in the twizzle or didn’t. Everyone does the same lifts to get the level of difficulty. The steps are the same for everyone, only the steps are rearranged in a different order. And between all this there is almost no time left for interesting elements, some connections. More often than not, if you turn off one music and turn on another, the program will go under it.
It’s a shame, because there are no such programs as before that can be reviewed endlessly. “Bolero” by Torvill and Dina, Bach by Klimova and Ponomarenko, programs by the Duchesne brother and sister… And what dances can you remember in recent years? I can’t even tell the programs of my beloved Papadakis and Cizeron from each other. They skate fantastically, but they dance with the same brush.
“How does Valieva do this from the point of view of physics?”
Irina Rodnina recently stated that in the absence of international tournaments, domestic Russian competitions are not interesting to her, and called them “housing office championships.” Personally, after visiting the stages of the Russian Grand Prix, I have different feelings – it was very interesting for me. What do you think?
MD:To be honest, we watch very little competition. We find it more interesting to watch ice shows. We are such people: we don’t really like anything competitive and we really love everything theatrical and creative. As for international tournaments: the styles of figure skating are all different, English, French, Canadian – you can’t confuse them, they feed off each other. And just as international sport suffers greatly from the absence of Russian figure skaters, our figure skating, of course, suffers from the lack of international competition. It is impossible to fill this gap. There is a lot of talent inside Russia, and there is competition. But, of course, this is still not a world championship.
– For five years, Russian women's single skating has been experiencing a boom in popularity thanks to ultra-c elements. But this season there are almost no quadruple jumps in women's competitions. You regularly perform in the same shows with Kamila Valieva, so I want to ask you specifically – can this unique figure skater maintain quads in adult sports?
MD:It is, of course, impossible to predict this. But when we look at Kamila, who has already grown up, matured and maintains her jumps at this level, we don’t even understand how this is possible. Little girls – everything is clear with them. And the fact that Kamila is still jumping quadruples – this season, as I understand it, is only in training so far…
– At the Grand Prix stage in Moscow I saw with my own eyes a magnificent powerful quadruple in warm-up.
MD:True, I don’t understand how Camila does this from a physics point of view. Often girls, as they grow up and mature, stop jumping, but she crossed this barrier. And if Camila, having matured, retained this set of jumps, then what prevents her from maintaining it in the future? But another question is: does she need it?
– And I wanted to ask about this too. The current series of the Russian Grand Prix has revealed to the audience figure skaters who, without performing jumps of four and three and a half turns, are able to attract attention with excellent programs. This is Ksenia Sinitsyna, Anna Frolova… If the judges began to adequately evaluate those figure skaters who are moving in an artistic direction, understanding that performing such programs is also the most difficult work, maybe the girls wouldn’t need quadruples?
MD:I probably won’t be mistaken if I say for the two of us with Povilas: we have never been fans of girls’ quadruples. It’s wrong for us when a girl does a quad, falls and then doesn’t know how to put her program together. I just want to enjoy beautiful skating, so that the elements are included in the program and do not interfere with my watching it. And if a person first rides with a neutral face, because he has not yet jumped his quadruple, and then only starts skating when he has completed it – or has not performed it…
– And this is always visible to the naked eye.
MD:Exactly. If I need ultra-c elements, I'd rather watch a Chinese circus. And I love figure skating for its beauty, and not for its quadruple jumps.
PV:Speaking about what you said about judging interesting programs: this is something that always angers us very much. We watch the World and European Championships and see girls or boys who, perhaps, do not perform quadruples, but do amazing programs in choreography and skating skills that give you goosebumps – and suddenly this is not noticeable in the ratings at all. And after them, “Buratins”, some robots, come out, jump and get huge points. This is a nightmare for us.
Of course, there are unique skaters who jump and show interesting programs, but this is more an exception to the rule. And we have always said: in order to get rid of this misfortune from the International Skating Union (ISU), we need an alternative federation. Or even several federations. So that athletes can choose whether to compete under the auspices of the ISU or some other federation, where there are other rules, other priorities in assessments. You can be a world champion in the ISU ranking or a world champion in some other version – you choose which one. There used to be professional world championships in which skaters who had achieved nothing in ISU competitions could beat Olympic champions – and it was wonderful. It was competition that creates a level. And now the presence of only one federation greatly cuts the wings of all creative people.
– As far as I remember, in 2002 there was an attempt to organize an alternative World Figure Skating Federation, and you were involved in it.
PV:We were invited guests , because they were always for competition and always wanted figure skating not to stand still. But, unfortunately, nothing came of it, and, among other things, the professional world championships were also buried. And now we have only one game.
– I know that you have your own fans who continue to follow you. Tell us where they can see you in the near future?
PV: After Yekaterinburg, where we are now performing in “Sleeping Beauty,” our show plans in Vladivostok and Khabarovsk in mid-December, and from January 22 to January 8 – the premiere of Tatiana Navka's new fairy tale “Evenings on a Farm” in Moscow, at Megasport. Then there will be a lot more, but these are too distant plans for now – why voice them now? So come to “Evenings”.