Kana Muramoto x Daisuke Takahashi
The ice dance team of KANA MURAMOTO and DAISUKE TAKAHASHI are in their second season together.They have been steadily improving their skills in preparation for their goal of competing at the Beijing Olympics.Their partnership has become stronger, and at the ice show "LUXE" they collaborated well together. After a productive off-season, they are now aiming for the top of the All-Japan Championships.
Interview by Junko Kuroo
--Thank you for your performances in “Hyoen – LUXE”. It was a wonderful show and you did a great job.
Daisuke: It was a lot of work. It was a lot of skating and I think it was hard for all the skaters. But it was fun.
Kana: We had a lot of fun. All the scenes were really nice and I felt like I was travelling around the world, which was really impressive.
--I'm sure you must have been worried about the safety of the event during the corona pandemic.
Daisuke: To be honest, I was worried because Kanagawa Prefecture had been designated as a priority area for the prevention of the spread of the new corona virus and we were not sure when the state of emergency would be declared.
Daisuke: If they had said "No", we would have had no choice, but until then, we had to believe that the event could be held.
--I was wondering what kind of skates you would be wearing, singles skates or ice dance skates, but you were wearing ice dance skates, weren't you?
Daisuke: Yes, only those (laughs). It was quite difficult. I mean, there were parts that were very easy to do and parts that were very difficult. The turns were easy, but the ballet jumps and pivots were a bit scary.
--You performed a song and I was surprised at how good you were.
Daisuke: I had a lot of singing lessons. There was also voice training.
Kana: He was very good, wasn't he?
Daisuke: I'm not used to singing in front of people, so I had to be really prepared.
--You also sang in "Hyoen 2019 – Like the moonlight", didn't you?
Daisuke: Yes. I sang more like a serif than a song [in “Like the Moonlight”], so I was able to get through some of it with emotion.
--Out of skating, dialogue and singing, which was the biggest hurdle for you?
Daisuke: The skating was another level of pressure, but this time it was the singing. The song/singing was really difficult. I only had a few lines of dialogue. [スケートは別次元のプレッ シャーがありましたけど、今回は歌で すね。歌が本当に難しくて大変でした。 セリフはまあ、ちょつとしかなかつたので。]
--One of the lines was “I'll make my own life, my life is mine!” I'm sure many people felt that these words echoed those of Takahashi's skating career.
Kana: That's true.
Daisuke: You think so? Ryo Harada, who wrote the script, wrote some parts of it for me. I don't know if he was trying to imitate me or not, but he said, "I've seen what you've done so far, so just act as yourself.” I don't know if that was the point of the line, but… I don't know. I'm not the type of person who can say it this proudly (laughs).
--Those words left a deep impression on me.
Kana: It was really cool.
Daisuke: I was very nervous in that scene. (laughs)
--I think LUXE had more figure skating elements than the previous two "Basara" and "Like the Moonlight". The solo, the collaboration numbers, and the ice dance with Muramoto, I think that the fans were able to see a variety of Takahashi's skating.
Daisuke: Yes, I felt that it was the closest thing to an ice show.
Kana: I hadn't seen you skate by yourself in a while, and it was wonderful to see you.
Daisuke: Ahaha (laughs).
Kana: It was really nice to see him, and I hope he can bring that freedom to ice dance.
--What do you mean by that freedom?
Kana: I don't know what to call it. Are you still exploring your dancing? [なんていうのかな。ダンスのほ うは、まだ探っている感じ？]
Kana: When I saw you skating by yourself, I was sure that if we could give each other more freedom/more space, we could make something even better. Today, when we were practicing, Dai-chan said that he felt a bit more relaxed, and I hope we can show that next season.
--On that note, your performance of "The Black Eagle" in the show was fantastic. The two of you worked perfectly together and I'm looking forward to next season even more.
Kana: "The Black Eagle" is what LUXE is all about, isn't it? There was Ayaka-san's (Hirahara) live singing and Dai-chan's skating. The people who saw the show said, "We want this to be an exhibition".
Daisuke: First of all, we have to get Aya (Ayaka Hirahara) to make a CD! Or else we won't be able to make it an exhibition! (laughs)
Kana: There wasn't much of an ice dance element, but we were both feeling the music and skating together, so it felt really good.
Daisuke: Our connection was really good.
--This is the second year that you guys have been working together. Is there anything different from last year?
Daisuke: Last year I was so focused on getting it right that I didn't know what was hard and what was easy to do. But now I've learned to think that it's okay to have some things that are hard to do. If there is a part that is difficult to do, I can tell them, "This part is still difficult to do," and they can say, "Well, let's change it," and I can make my own choice. I can now quickly make a choice between "If I work hard, it will be fine" and "I should change this," so in that sense I think things have become smoother.
Daisuke: I've noticed that Kana has a certain way of moving.
Kana: That's right.
Daisuke: I think it's the same for Kana and I, but now that we know each other's habits/quirks a little better, we can say things like "I think I should do this" or "I think you should do that" more easily. I think we've become more of a team.
--I think you are getting closer to being able to breathe together.
Daisuke: We haven't quite got to that point yet. (laughs)
Kana: But somehow it’s getting closer.
Daisuke: Somehow. [It depends on] the condition of the day, the condition of the skating, all these kinds of things. [なんとなくね。その日のコンディションとか、スケ―卜の調子とか、そ、っ いつたところは白然とね。]
Kana: In dance, the more time passes, the more you grow.
Daisuke: When we skated "The Black Eagle", I really felt that I was able to express my emotions during the performance.
Kana: Yes, that's right.
Daisuke: Up until now, I had been trying to keep up with you and match your movements. But with "The Black Eagle", even though there may not have been as much of an ice dance element, I felt that I was able to do what I wanted to do.
--So you both have a good feeling about the future.
Daisuke: We really felt that we were able to grasp it through the performances in LUXE.
Daisuke: It was totally different each time, wasn't it?
Kana: Yes, it was different, and I really felt that this is what acting is all about. I thought how wonderful it would be if we could make "acting" a part of our competition.
Daisuke: When we were in tune with each other, we didn't have to think about it, we could just move smoothly. I think it would be most beautiful if we were able to "match" rather than "align/fit". [「合わせる」じやな くて「合っていた」というふうになれば、 いちばん素敵に見えるんだろうなと。] There were many moments when I felt that way.
--Did you know that the other person felt the same way?
Daisuke: I have felt it. I had never felt this way before, so to be able to feel this way was a great experience.
Kana: A feeling you can't get in practice.
Daisuke: Yes, that's what it was like.
--Have you noticed any changes in the way you communicate?
Daisuke: I think I can say what I want to say more now. (laughs) I used to be very careful and reserved, but now I'm able to say more/be more direct.
Kana: I think I'm growing as a person, because he accepts me even when I show my true self, so I don't hold back/hesitate anymore, and on the other hand he tells me what I'm doing wrong so I can correct it. [自分の素を出しても受け止めて くれるので、遠慮しないょ、っになりま したし、逆にいろいろ言ってもらえる ことで自分の悪いところも直せるので、 人としても成長できていると思います。]
Daisuke: When I'm being selfish, she takes it in her stride. [僕も、自分がヮガママになって いるときは、逆に受け止めてもらって いるし。]
Kana: It's a good balance.
--Do you sometimes have conflicts of opinion during practice because you want to make things better?
Daisuke: Yes, we do.
Kana: That's right!
Daisuke: When that happens, I'm very stubborn, but Kana doesn't back down either. (laughs)
Kana: Ahaha! (laughs)
Daisuke: And that makes it easier for us to say things.
Kana: Because we both have such a strong passion for our performance. It's not a bad argument.
Kana: We argue because we both want to improve, so in the end we come together. Sometimes we don't, but we don't feel bad about it. (laughs)
Daisuke: Yes, that's right.
Kana: So we don't think of arguing as a bad thing.
Daisuke: We're both the youngest [in our families] (laughs).
Kana: Haha (laughs).
Daisuke: I think we both have a tendency to say what we want to say.
Kana: And then we'll pull back where we can.
--So you're becoming more and more connected as a team. Have there been any changes in the way you skate?
Daisuke: It's hard for me to say. You have to ask the people who have seen it.
Kana: My skating has become more supple and I feel like I can let go of myself when I am skating with him. I used to push him in some parts, but in "The Black Eagle" I didn't really have to do anything, I just let him do it.
Daisuke: I see (laughs).
Kana: I felt like he was leading the whole thing.
Daisuke: I wasn't aware of that. (laughs) I had no idea.
--Have you noticed any changes in your own performance since you have been ice dancing?
Daisuke: In the LUXE program "Spain", I was partnered with women, and I was able to lead them, which I think is the result of my ice dance experience. Also, I've become better at counting [music].
Kana: Hmm (laughs).
Daisuke: I used to not be able to count at all. Some music is difficult to skate to without counting, so I think it's good that I've learned to do that.
--In the scene "Spain", Kana Muramoto and Shizuka Arakawa performed together very well.
Kana: I was very happy to be able to do a number with Arakawa-san. We talked about how we wanted to perform it, what we wanted to do. We had a lot of fun discussing and creating the world view.
--I really enjoyed the way the women's feelings collided with each other.
Kana: That's what the story was supposed to be about, but we consulted with each other, saying things like, "It would be better to make this part look like that.” It's not often that I get the chance to exchange ideas with Arakawa-san, so I really enjoyed doing it.
--I was also impressed by the collaboration number, "Mirror", performed by Mr. Takahashi and Mr. Tanaka.
Daisuke: When we first started rehearsing, Keiji was very shy and wouldn't look me in the eye. So I kept saying, "Look at me, look at me!” (laughs). He worked really hard, so I was really happy.
--When Tanaka grabbed Takahashi's arm, he did it with all his might and it made me smile.
Daisuke: Keiji was a bit more reserved than I would have liked. Maybe he was a bit scared, or maybe he was just being careful. When I first started working with Kana, she used to say to me, "You can grab me more," and I understood that, but I was still scared. Based on my own experience, I was able to tell Keiji, "You have to do it with all your might to get the message across, so do it as hard as you can. It was like I was watching myself when I first started dancing. (laughs)
--I think that's where your dance experience comes in. Next season will be the Olympic season, do you have any plans for the programs?
Kana: For the free dance, we will continue with La Bayadère. We have only skated this beautiful program twice in competitions and we feel that it is not finished yet.
Daisuke: We didn't have a good performance of it in competition.
Kana: We were really good in practice, but in competition we didn't have a coherent performance. We thought we had a good program. I think it's a good program for us, so I hope we can give a good performance in competition.
Kana: It would be nice if we could skate it perfectly.
--Did you decide together to continue to work on it/keep it?
Daisuke: It wasn't really a consultation, was it?
Kana: It was just a matter of how things were going. I guess.
Daisuke: Like, "Yes, of course" (laughs).
Kana: Coach Marina Zueva was also thinking of carrying it over.
--So she choreographed it with the Olympic season in mind. How about the rhythm dance?
Kana: For the Rhythm Dance, the theme for next season is "Street Dance" such as Blues and Hip Hop. So I think hip-hop is the way to go. I think it will be the most exciting. As it is the Olympic season, we thought it would be nice to have a song that represented Japan, so we searched around and found a really cool hip hop song with a Japanese theme and then we found a blues song to go with it. We thought that if we put these two songs together and danced to them, the audience would get really excited, so we decided to use them.
--What are the names of the songs?
Daisuke: "Soran bushi"!
Kana: The blues one is a modern arrangement of "Soran-bushi" and the hip-hop one is "KOTO" with Japanese instruments such as the koto.
--I think these are perfect songs for the Olympic season, with a touch of Japanese culture. Whose idea was it?
Daisuke: (indicating by hand movement that it was Kana)
Kana: I was looking for different songs, and I thought "Japanese hip-hop is very uniquely Japanese", and I found the perfect song. So I suggested it to everyone and asked, "What do you think?” and surprisingly Marina (Zueva) was the first one to get into it, and she was like, "It's really good!” (laughs)
Daisuke: I thought it was cool too.
Kana: I've never done hip-hop before, so it's a new genre for me, but Dai-chan has done it in singles and I know it was cool. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to catch up to that level. (laughs)
--I'm really looking forward to it. How do you feel about it?
Daisuke: It's really hard, isn't it?
Kana: It's tough. It takes a lot of energy ........
Daisuke: It's so hard, it's scary. (laughs)
Kana: But it's fun!
Daisuke: Yes, it's fun.
--How would you describe it?
Kana: It's hard to express a Japanese flavour with blues and hip hop. Because the theme is Japanese, it shouldn’t be done halfway [half-heartedly]. But if we can express this unique program on the ice, I think it will be a very cool one. Also, the first half of the piece is very slow, but you have to use your legs a lot more in that kind of piece. And then there's the hip hop.
Daisuke: It’s fast!
Kana: It's very fast, but in hip-hop, you have to stop in place to be able to dance, so it's very difficult to keep the intensity of the movement. [速いんですけど、ヒップホップはとくに動きを止めなレとレけないところもあるので、動きの強弱とかがすご く難しいんです。]
--Will there be any new elements?
Daisuke: The lift is new, or rather the most difficult lift we've done.
Kana: Yes, yes. It's very difficult.
Daisuke: I think people will be amazed/surprised.
--It's a big wait. Did you make any changes to/rework the free dance?
Daisuke: The free dance is very simple [unchanged?] [フリーは地味変(じみへん)。]
Kana: Yes, it's a bit more modest, but we've made some changes to the lifts, to improve the levels, and to make the unisons more suitable for the program. [そう、地味にというか、リフトで もゝっ少しレベルを取れるものにしたり、 もっとプログラムに合ったユニゾンを 考えました。]
--I'm looking forward to the season. What are your goals for the season?
Daisuke: Only to win the All-Japan Championships.
Kana: That's all we can do. We can't think about anything else unless we win the All-Japan Championships.
Daisuke: "Only", isn't it?
Kana: Of course, we have the Beijing Olympics in my mind, but for that, we need to win the All-Japan Championship first.
Daisuke: That's right.
--Thank you very much. Lastly, would you like to say a few words to your fans?
Daisuke: We will do our best for the All Japan Championships, so please support us.
Kana: I know that the situation with the corona pandemic is still very difficult, but I hope that we will have the opportunity to skate in front of everyone. We will do our best for the All-Japan Championships and I'm looking forward to it.
“The switch to ice dance is a big deal. I know there are pros and cons to this decision, but I decided that I wanted to be involved in the sport much more, and I thought ice dancing would be good for me in the future," says Takahashi. "Of course there are difficulties. It's not easy, but you can overcome them together with your partner. It's a lot of fun and I think it will help me in the future when I'm living with someone or building a relationship with a business partner.”
--He has been skating since he was 8 years old, and has led the skating world with his glamorous performances, but his true face is shy and natural.
“In reality, I'm the opposite, so it would be a bit sad if those who have that image of me were told that I'm actually a bit too shy," he laughs. "I've always been shy and I'm not confident at all. I'm not very good at public speaking. I'm better in competitions. But ice dance is a two-person event, so I need to be able to feel and see. So maybe my personality is not a bad thing.”
--What do you think of your private life outside of competition?
"I'd like to get married and have children if the timing is right, but for now I'm thinking about competing. I don't know how long the popularity of skating will last, but I'm thinking that it would be nice to have a place where I can still perform when I'm 40 or 50.”
And finally Kana about Dai:
“Dai-chan has helped me to grow a lot. I've learned to think more calmly since I started working with him. He gives me a good balance and helps me to grow as a person. I respect him a lot and I told him again recently: 'Thank you for being an ice dancer'.”
Here you go:Good luck to Kana and Dai this weekend!
Hopefully someone will upload a video clip of thier RD. Cant wait to see it.
All is well with everyone here.
Here you go: