Q: Could you please tell us about your new programs? Tell us a bit about the choreographing process. Was it started from April, May last year?
Zhao: Yes. After we finished some shows in Canada, we went directly to Lori Nicol. She presented us all sorts of music pieces including Spanish style, more than 10 in total for us to select. Before we made the decision (in selecting music), we had some stroking/basic skating classes. Lori drove us to the class everyday, and she kept on playing those music pieces in the car and also gave us a lot of background materials. She asked us to tell us which one we’d prefer and then she’d cut the music for us. We could not make a decision until almost all of our training classes came to an end.
Shen: We could not make a decision (by that time). We initially intended to use the ‘Meditation from Thais’ as our short program. We were afraid (this music) would put audience to sleep, let them wonder ‘Why is this music so long, when will it end?’
Zhao: That would be the worst choreography failure in if the audience feel the music is too long, they have to feel ‘why is it so short?’, that would be a success. So we were contemplating how to lead audience’ mood into each of our element and blend into the program, the choreography. In order to do so, we spent a lot of effort working on stroking technique and basic skating skills, especially the flexibility of knees, including the center of the body, how to emote and all sorts of training of details. We were really inspired by the music of ‘Meditation from Thais’ when Lori played it for us. We did not realize the Russian pair had already skated to the same music at 2002 Olys even we competed with them. When we heard the music, our immediate reaction was that a couple of Chinese TV shows had used it for the purpose of remembering the past. Our thoughts just blended in when listening to this familiar tune. We could feel our past, the joy, the struggle including my injury prior to the Olys. Every feeling and emotion is just imprinted on our mind. We immediately told Lori that night we really loved this music. Lori simply said to us ‘very good!’ We then tried to draft a story with the music and wrote it down in Chinese.
Q: Did you write it?
Zhao: Yes, I wrote it and then let Xue go over it. It start with two people back to back — in the sheer world of ice, the search, in the instant they cross paths — the boy discovers a pretty little girl and the story begins…
Q: Beautiful. Is this the first time you disclosed (the synopsis)?
Zhao: No, we published the synopsis on our blog. I think besides us only a French pair (not sure if he referred to a dance or pair team) did the same thing, to tell the audience the synopsis, and let the audience understand the frame of the strory and what they intend to do with the music beforehand.
Q: That will leave no space for imagination (by doing so)?
Zhao: To certain extent maybe. But if you are unable to present what you’re supposed to do, that will be a major failure since the audience will then know. I then asked one of our friends to translate the script into English for Lori. She was so inspired and told us “This is such a beautiful story, I promise to choreograph for you with my heart.” We then started (the choreography) and it took us one week.
Shen: The long program took us one week.
Zhao: All sorts of back and forth, all the elements are skillfully blended in the program; it’s ended up a rather successful one.
Q: Choreography is the way to interpret your feeling toward the music through each element?
Zhao: Yes, the main point is what you want to express. When we did ‘Turando’, it’s a story of prince flirting with a princess. The princess was arrogant and simply ignored the prince in the first place, the prince eventually captured the princess through his charisma. The choreography of ‘Turando’ was very elegant, it’s another success.
Q: Did you choose the music (‘Turando’) yourselves as well?
Shen: No, our coach selected that one for us. He absolutely loved it and we prepared it for the Olympics (2002) for almost two years.
Zhao: A lot of people were familiar with that music, and a lot of skaters used it before, but nothing stunning. Our coach told us if you want to skate (to ‘Turando’), you have to skate a program that can capture people’s memory. Only if you do so, it can be called a success.
Q: So many successful pieces, but which one do you like the most up until today?
Zhao: I liked ‘Turando’, also this season’s the ‘Meditation’ because it’s a story of our own, very special for us. We don’t have to follow the original(opera), we just use the music as a backdrop. We like to skate to a story of our own.
Shen: We can skate more at our own will, to present ourselves. ‘Turando’ was more a (fictional) princess.
Q: Speaking for myself, I like the ‘Meditation’ the most, especially that leg hooking move, it’s really a masterpiece.
Shen: Everybody loves that move, but it’s particularly difficult, very easy to fall. After we completed the choreography, we almost practiced one to two months until we can master it with ease.
Q: Why? Why is it so difficult?
Shen: After you hook both legs together, you then have to coordinate the strength to pull each other back.
Zhao: You must balance the flexibility and the strength of your knees (to do this). When you first glide forward, then use your toe to gently hook your partner’s to pull back, and go backward in a straight line, it’s quite difficult.
Shen: We often fell apart by just hooking the legs (in the first month).