Golden Skate

Interview with Allie Hann-McCurdy and Michael Coreno

Ice dancers Allie Hann-McCurdy (20) and Michael Coreno (23) perform their Compulsory Dance (Golden Waltz) at the 2007 Canadian Figure Skating Championships.

Canadian ice dancers Allie Hann-McCurdy and Michael Coreno made their senior debut last year. The team feels that the jump from ‘juniors to seniors’ is comparable to starting all over and getting a second opportunity.

“There is a whole different category required to get noticed and established in seniors,” said Coreno. “There are greater expectations related to image, maturity, speed, experience, personality, skill, and creativity. Compared to juniors, there are more people in the audience (a definite plus), and more media (nerve-racking, but also kind of fun). Nationally and internationally, it feels refreshing to be in seniors because you get to reintroduce yourself, like a second chance at a first impression.”

The on and off-ice couple kicked off the 2007-08 season at Lake Placid where they debuted their new Original Dance (OD) to Log Drivers Waltz (from a CBC animation performed by Kate and Anna McGarrigle). They finished first in the Compulsory Dance (CD), second in the OD, and third in the Free Dance (FD).

“We felt it (the OD) was skated very well,” commented Hann-McCurdy. “The OD this year is something that reflects our personality and it’s something we love doing everyday. We feel really excited to be skating to something Canadian.”

Last month, they competed at Nebelhorn Trophy, finishing fourth (three placements up from last year) where they debuted their new FD to Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin. The team originally had a Latin number planned for this year’s FD.

“At first we thought it would be fun to do something more modern again,” explained Coreno, but after a few months, it (the Latin piece) just wasn’t us.”

“We thought our FD was performed very well [at Nebelhorn] considering it was only a three week-old program,” added Hann-McCurdy. “We had a ton of fun with it!”

Recently, the team was added to the Skate Canada grand prix roster.

“We were really happy to have been selected to compete at Skate Canada,” said Coreno. It is an event that both of us have watched on TV and dreamed of going to since we were very young.”

Kasey (USA): Hi Allie and Mike! I’m really enjoying watching you join the ranks of elite senior skaters! You have such a unique style and I hope you can maintain that throughout your career. My question to you is: What would you like your legacy in the sport to be and what would you like most to be remembered for? (Wishing you best of luck this season!!!)

Allie: Wow! A legacy, hmmm. Well Mike and I never want to be the same from year to year. We want to keep changing our music style, dancing style, performing style – everything. This year, for example, is all about telling a story. Basically though, I guess we never want to be boring!

Mike: This is something that is sort of a ‘dream’ type goal just like winning the Olympics. I sometimes like to think about the possibilities and it would be nice to be mentioned in the same sentence as Torvill & Dean and Bourne & Kraatz. I hope our legacy is something that reflects the work we put in every year and something that is unique from other skaters.

Cassie (USA): What’s it like to be coached by Victor Kraatz?

Allie: Interesting?! No seriously, it’s great! He is very energetic and spontaneous. He still races us around the rink some mornings to make sure we’re going fast enough. He is a stickler for speed and is always helping us find ways to go faster – even if it makes us (okay, me) a little bit nervous. He is also very caring on the ice and makes sure we are healthy and not over-tired. When we are training though, he always wants 100% of our effort.

Mike: It’s nice to be skating beside a world champion every day.

Larry (USA): Are Kraatz and Maikki tough taskmasters?

Allie: Well, we get the “try it one more time” a lot. They don’t believe in repetition for the sake of repetition, but they do expect 100% effort given each time we do something. Each time should be faster, smoother, more knee action, more eye contact, and quieter on the ice than the last time.

Mike: We have weekly schedules we follow, and at the beginning of the week the workload doesn’t seem too bad (Allie and I are known to be a bit of workaholics on the ice), but by Wednesday you kind of wish it was Friday.

Brittany (USA): When did the two of you start dating and how do you manage being an on-ice couple as well as an off-ice couple?

Allie: We started dating about a month after we started skating, in April 2003. The benefits to being an on–ice and off-ice couple is that communication between partners is very easy. We are also comfortable with each other’s moods, behavior, hopes, dreams, and fears, so we understand each other very well. If we aren’t careful however, we end up seeing each other almost 24/7 and that can be trouble-some if it ever feels like its not special to see the other person.

Mike: I think our relationship works because we have the same goals and work ethic on ice and we each know how to leave ‘rink’ or skating issues at the rink.

Terri (CAN): Do you feel that your personal relationship has helped strengthen your on-ice relationship, and if so, how? Do you ever have days where you just don’t want to be around each other for practice?

Allie: Yes, we are very close to each other – like best friends. We finish each other’s sentences, and sometimes we read each other’s minds too, lol! It can get a little creepy…Hahaha! Days where we don’t want to see each other for practice? No. Minutes/hours? Yes. Every team has disagreements – especially when the adrenaline is pumping during a hard practice or we’re tired, but we get over them very quickly and then it’s back to laughing, joking, and working hard.

Mike: I think that when you find someone with the same goals and dreams you can work together to create something amazing in this sport. When we compete, the audience gets to see real emotion. That true feeling for another person can’t be taught and I think it shows through. I know there are really tough days and because we’re around each other all the time, we know exactly which buttons to push!! Hahaha … but that only happens in the spring when we decide which music to skate to (The Cutting Edge anyone?).

Brett (CAN): Do you have any pets? If so, what kind and what are there names?

Allie: Hi Brett! Yes, we have three fish and a bunch of snails that snuck into our fish bowl unannounced when we bought some live plants from the pet store. We used to name our fish but they died. So then we considered it bad luck to name them. Thus now they don’t have names.

Mike: I am the caretaker of our fish. They follow a very strict diet and I find it difficult to leave them alone during our competitions away from home ;).

Candice (CAN): How do you choose your music every year?

Allie: Hi Candice! Every year is different. Last year, our coaches approached us with a concept, then we as a group chose which music we thought would suit a modern dance showcasing shapes and linear movement. This year, we looked for music that inspired us first. Then we ended up changing our program anyway :-). Even our new music Rhapsody in Blue inspired us, however, and ended up being very natural for us to perform to. We developed a story afterward that we thought the music could help us tell.

Mike: I’m all about music that will fill the arena and hopefully get everyone involved. When we are looking for music I picture myself sitting in the stands as part of the audience. I try to feel what it would be like watching us skate to a piece and then decide whether it would be special enough.

Larry (USA): I thought you took a gamble last year with your choice of Philip Glass for your free dance music. This is a very challenging composer. How did you come to choose this music and what were your interpretive goals?

Allie: At the beginning of last year, our coaches approached us with a concept, then we as a group chose we music we thought would suit a modern dance showcasing Maikki’s choreography of shapes and linear movement. We had skated to Phillip Glass in our first year junior in 2003 and we both really enjoyed it. So we looked through our CD collection for pieces with variety and repetition and that would build to a climax so it would be suitable for a skating program. Our interpretive goals were to use our body movement and not our faces. There was to be no feeling to speak of, per se.

Mike: Skaters and choreographers usually pick a piece of music before they create steps. Last year, we created the movements and steps that Allie described and the then looked for a piece of music that would showcase them. Unfortunately, most of the music from Glass was too difficult to simply cut into a four minute program, so we combined and recreated several tracks to make the music suit the choreography. It was a gamble to skate to the piece, however, it was our first year as seniors – it made people watch and it stood out from the ‘ordinary’.

Lynn (CAN): What do you think about this year’s OD choice?

Allie: I really like it! There is no other OD choice that would allow us to skate to Canadian and Newfoundland music and that would allow Mike to wear jeans and a lumberjack shirt!

Mike: I’m proud to be a Canadian and I’m extremely excited to be able skate to a piece of music that most Canadians (who watch CBC) grew up with.

Larry (USA): A number of top world teams are retiring this year, but some other young teams (i.e. Virtue & Moir and Davis & White) are on the rise. Do you have a specific goal or a “three-year plan” for making your presence felt on the world stage?

Allie: Our three year plan involves going into the rink everyday for three years and each day being better than the day before. Mike can provide more detail.

Mike: Well, we are two and a half years into a five year plan with our goal to be on the Olympic team here in Vancouver. So far, like Allie says, we show up to the rink with that goal in mind every day. We skate hard, try to show our style, and have fun somewhere during all that.

Mavy (USA): How long did it take to find each other? How many partners did each of you have before teaming up?

Allie: We trained at the same centre for a year with different partners. Both of our partners decided to leave skating, so we teamed up together. I skated in Juvenile dance with Fernando Luna and Daniel Leclair. Then Junior dance with Jean-Phillipe Mathieu and Paul Bauer. I was sixteen when I started with Mike.

Mike: I had two previous dance partners before skating with Allie. I also had one pairs partner and a Novice men’s free skate career before I realized falling hurts too much and dance really is the better way to go.

Mary (USA): How would you describe your first tryout together?

Allie: Everything was going really well, stroking was easy and fast, dance positions were comfortable, lifts were easy…until… I cut his wrist with my skate blade while practicing a new lift. Then I wondered if I would ever hear from him again :-).

Mike: Great until she cut me! It’s always a bit scary changing partners, but it was really nice to team up with someone who shares the same goals and work ethic.

Lee (CAN): What has been your favorite free dance so far and why?

Allie: Every year has been a challenge. Beethoven with Kelly Johnson was really fun and powerful… Carmen was special because we won Junior Canadians with it. Last year’s modern dance was a real challenge, but I think Rhapsody in Blue is going to be my favorite. It feels like me and I love the music. The story is really fun to tell: We are a couple in the early 20th century who just arrived in North America, and we are exploring all the famous sites and landmarks of New York City.

Mike: I enjoyed our Beethoven free dance because it was powerful and I was allowed to jump a ton. We had some pretty crazy hair that year and we made our presence felt in the world by making it to the JGP final our first year on the circuit. I think this year’s free dance is the first one that I actually enjoy waking up in the morning for. It is so natural and really shows off our personality.

Joanna (USA): What is one thing about the ice dance discipline that you feel the average person does not understand?

Allie: The physical and mental effort required to make expression real every time you perform.

Mike: The relevance between the costumes and the music sometimes :-).

Kasey (USA): A second question for you both: Although you have your own unique style, who do you most look up to in the skating world and would like to be most like in terms of your career?

Allie: I am inspired by all of my competitors. When I watch them, I learn something from everyone. At the top, however, I like Torvill and Dean for their originality, Bourne and Kraatz for their edges and knees, Anissina and Peizerat for their drama and passion, and Wing and Lowe for their animation and ability to portray different characters. There are many others, but I guess you could say that everyone inspires me to be better.

Mike: I get inspired by teams who show both athleticism and classic dance qualities. Since moving up to seniors, I have found myself wanting less to be like another team and more about picking different qualities that I think stand out from each team.

Paula (USA): It seems that one of your strengths as a team is your compulsories. Do you have a favorite tempo?

Allie: Thank you for that comment; we work very hard on our compulsories. I like waltzes generally, but my favorite dances are the blues and argentine.

Mike: I always thought we did a good tango! Actually, I think my favorite tempo is the quickstep. It’s too bad that it hasn’t been a dance for a while, but I’m looking forward to next year when they introduce the new quickstep.

Paula (USA): Last year, you had a chance to compete as seniors at Skate America and Trophee Eric Bompard. What do you feel you gained from this experience?

Allie: We ‘cashed in’ our world points from the JGP circuit last year, and had the amazing opportunity to compete at Trophee Eric Bompard, and Skate America (which we found out about at the last minute as we were alternates). The experience we gained from these competitions was very valuable. They were both very challenging events, with the World champions, and World bronze medalists, Olympians and World competitors, and Junior World champions and medalists all present. We were surrounded by excellence and that inspired us to be better in every aspect of our skating.

Mike: I think skating with the top teams in the world really put things into perspective for us for the first time. Skating the practices with the top teams really gave us our focus for the next five or so years.