Golden Skate

Italy’s Guignard and Fabbri: ‘This season is the best’

Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri

Italy’s Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri perform to “Schindler’s List” at the 2016 European Figure Skating Championships.

Ice dancers Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri, who compete for Italy, have been steadily climbing the world rankings since they teamed up in 2010. The skaters placed 19th at their worlds debut in 2010 and were 12th last year. This season, they are hoping to make the top 10.

Fabbri, who just turned 28 earlier this month, is a bit superstitious when voicing his hopes for the upcoming 2016 World Figure Skating Championships, however, his partner says reaching the top 10 is definitely one of their goals.

“It would mean that we improved the result of last season,” said 26-year-old Guignard. “However, the most important goal for us is to continue performing solid and intense programs and to also show in Boston the love we feel for this wonderful sport!”

“If we reached the top 10 at Worlds, we would be really satisfied and it would be a really good result for us,” Fabbri chimed in. “In any case, the most important thing in a competition is to finish it feeling that you couldn’t give anything more than what you gave!”

Earlier this season, the team placed first at both their ISU Challenger events in Croatia and Poland before placing fourth at their two Grand Prix events at Skate Canada and Rostelecom Cup. They then went on to finish seventh at the 2016 European Figure Skating Championships.

“This season has been the best of our career up to this point,” Fabbri observed. “Since the beginning of the competitions, we started receiving a lot of positive feedback about our new programs from judges, coaches, fans and rival ice-dancers. This makes us feel very proud and happy as all the work and efforts we did to build the dances for this season were not in vain.”

Guignard agreed, adding: “We’ve had a constant improvement after every single competition and we’ve skated many programs with no major mistakes. Europeans was really great…the crowd was fantastic and we received tons of compliments as never before.”

2016 Europeans – Short Dance

In Bratislava, Slovakia, Guignard and Fabbri delivered a solid short dance which featured strong level four twizzles as well as a level four curve lift. While they only met five of their six key points in the waltz pattern, all elements received positive grades of execution (GOE) and the team finished sixth with 64.87 points.

“We are working on making our short dance appear even lighter, more natural and spontaneous,” said Guignard. “We are also working on the precision of every technical element, not only as far as levels are concerned, but also as far GOEs are concerned.”

“Our short dance is meant to share with everybody watching our performance the joy we feel when we skate and the immense happiness that is typical of the south of Italy,” said Fabbri, regarding the Neapolitan music they use. “We would like to improve the connection with the outside even more.”

2016 Europeans – Free Dance

In contrast, their free dance to Schindler’s List is dramatic and intense, and captures the harrowing essence of the Holocaust. At Europeans, the team earned a level four in all elements except for the serpentine and diagonal steps which were graded a level three. Once again, the team earned positive GOEs in all of their elements for a score of 97.71 points.

The decision to perform to this music dates back to the 2014 Olympics when they wanted to use the music, however, they opted for Romeo and Juliet that season.

“We discussed representing this theme for last season as well, but we didn’t want to show back-to-back stories of suffering despite their obvious differences,” Guignard explained. “So this season we finally felt ready and mature enough to bring such a strong theme to the ice.”

Their choreographer, Corrado Giordani, who used to be a ballet dancer, played a crucial role in developing the theme.

“As a matter of fact, Corrado comes from Trieste where there is one of the few Nazi concentration camps in Italy with crematory facilities,” said Fabbri. “Because of this reason, he has always felt this theme and this tragedy really deeply since he was a teenager. He also had the opportunity to create his own theatre show based on the story of the Holocaust. Thanks to his knowledge, we hope we were able to scratch the surface in portraying the feelings of suffering that millions of people experienced.”

The choreographic details of the free dance try to underline the fact that Guignard is being “protected” from the horrors surrounding her as did Oskar Schindler with “his Jews.” The end of the program is intended to leave hope, which is the feel that the movie communicated to the ice dancers.

“I know it sounds quite obvious, but the main emotion we would like the audience to understand is the continuous agony that Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and political opponents of the Nazi party were obliged to experience during those years,” Guignard explained. “This is something really hard to imagine for all those who live in countries with many rights, freedom and comforts.”

The team, which finished 14th at the 2014 Olympics, are also aiming for another go in 2018, and feel that their first participation will give them a bit of an advantage.

“Every experience we live during our life is important and modifies our being,” said Fabbri. “Sochi has definitely been one of those experiences that changed us as a couple more intensely, and we already feel that having competed there is helping us even now facing every obstacle on our path.”

“An Olympic experience is something that obviously changes you deeply,” Guignard agreed. “After such an important achievement, you can’t feel the same anymore…you feel more mature, stronger, and you are more aware of your abilities. Sochi was so great that we can’t wait to take part in another Olympic Game in two years!”

The ice dancers look up to their friendly and strong rivals, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, who train at another rink. Both Fabbri and Guignard feel that they helped push them to their limits. Guignard and Fabbri are also inspired by USA’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White, as well as Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.

“Could you imagine a mix between the power, the energy and the acrobatic skills of Davis and White and the elegance, connection and artistry of Virtue and Moir?” posed Guignard. “It would be amazing! Even though they inspire me differently, these are the two couples I definitely admire the most!”

Fabbri feels it’s impossible not to split the discipline of ice dance in two different eras regarding the old and new judging system.

“As far as the old judging system is concerned, I would say that the couple I look up to the most is Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean,” he said. “They have been responsible for incredibly innovative programs, and this shows in many of the recent programs you see now. You can find many transitions or steps inspired by what they were already doing 30 years ago.”

The team is currently coached by Barbara Fusar-Poli and Igor Shpilband, and split their training time between Milan, Italy, Novi, Michigan, and Moscow, Russia.

“I remember that when I first came to Italy to start my partnership with Marco I was a little bit intimidated by Barbara,” Guignard confessed, chuckling. “I didn’t know her at all, and the only image I had of her was that of the end of her original dance at the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin where it looked like she would have liked to ‘kill Maurizio (Margaglio). “However, if you have the opportunity of knowing Barbara, you can discover a really strong person with an incredibly competitive behavior, but at the same time she is also loving and really funny. She is the perfect compromise between hard-work and amusement on the ice!”

Fabbri agreed, adding: “Barbara is a winner, so like every winner she always wants more and more and she is never fully satisfied. This has been the key of her success as an athlete and she is following the same path as a coach. Despite this, lessons with her are never unbearable as she is incredible at motivating skaters and she is able to perfectly mix the hard work with a light training atmosphere.”

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