marina's comments on carmen at rostelecom cup

below, you'll read three articles from marina where she talks about carmen and tessa and scott's readiness for it. she's so proud and detailed. there's also so much information on how they came to pick carmen and how this program was trained throughout the summer. in particular, i find it interesting how she said that judges sought her out to tell her that they had wanted tessa and scott to skate to a program just like carmen (in the article, "my carmen stays undefeated"). these articles also reveal how marina and team canton deal with the reality that one of their teams will defeat the other, giving us some insight into the mindset tessa and scott have had for the past 10 years. let's just say, they aren't trained to be upset or take it too personally.

at the end of the season, marina choses to praise both meryl and charlie and tessa and scott equally or deflect blame to the judges ... but we as fans have to know that she knows exactly what is special about tessa and scott and it's her proudest joy to bring that kind of talent to greatness.

marina zueva: my carmen stays undefeated
by nadezhda baranova

before the beginning of the rostelecom cup, it was possible to be absolutely certain that canadians tessa virtue and scott moir were going to win ice dance. the olympic champions have not simply arrived in the rank of overwhelming favourites of tournament for nothing. their carmen free dance already has became one of the famous programs of this season. their permanent coach and the choreographer, marina zueva, agreed to talk about the new dance.

nadezhda: marina, in one of recent interviews you mentioned that you had an idea of carmen several years ago.
marina: carmen was created in order to highlight tessa. at the beginning of their career, everybody was speaking about scott. he is brunet; he had the right temperament and expression; and he is a natural born dancer (as they say, by god's favour). tessa was a little bit in the shadow of such bright power. even officials of skate canada pointed me to it. certainly, the idea that would allow us to bring the lady to the forefront was necessary. and for some reason at once i thought of carmen. you remember their original dance of the olympic season, the flamenco? already it was preparation for carmen, where we could work on the key things we needed to work on. but at that time tessa wasn't ready to portray such theme. after all carmen is a woman, a true woman. tessa needed to grow as the performer in order to portray such an image. and it’s not only about acting. we needed to get the technique down, but not only for tessa.

you have to agree that what tessa and scott are doing now, they probably could not have done it two years ago. all the lifts were created especially for this program. they were created according to this music. they were put into shape in order to reflect the mood each of the dance parts. try to move any lift into other dance and it will lose meaning. it will turn into simple standing on the head. besides, pay attention: in each lift, difficult positions are corresponding with difficult transitions. this is completely new and … it’s not yet measured by rules [the rules can’t really fathom or reflect what they’re doing]. and other elements -- spinnings, twizzles, their entrances, step sequence, etc. -- are all new. they never performed (executed) them earlier. the program is very difficult. and in order to create it, trained performers were needed. they need to be mature not only on the inside, but in their technique as well.

nadezhda: so your position is that athletes at such high level have to always be innovators?
marina: undoubtedly. olympic champions and world champions have to bring something new in ice dancing. and even if you are just wannabe champion — you shouldn't execute last year's lifts. the same for tessa and scott. remember pink floyd? how many years ago did they skate that free dance? and even then, there was an innovation in each element.

nadezhda: and your carmen is not traditional, but innovative.
marina: last year so many judges came to me and spoke with me: "we would like to see tessa and scott do something unusual, something unbelievable … but with theme that we could identify (something well-known)". and there and then i precisely decided that it has to be carmen. who doesn't recognize (could not identify) her? but how could we make it unusual ... we really had to think about it.

i invited the tessa's ballet teacher who worked with tessa from childhood, jennifer swan, to help with choreographing this program. we studied a huge number of material. by the way, if you wish, you too could have a look in the internet and be convinced: a carmen like ours cannot be found anywhere. i guarantee it to you. certainly, some things, like movements, have something in common with other programs. but the interpretation of the theme, composition of the program and lifts do not repeat.

nadezhda: the idea of the “undefeated carmen" arose at once? [that carmen doesn’t die at the end]
marina: how in general it is possible to win against carmen? yes, it is possible to kill her body. but the love, the soul, will remain, will stay, will survive. in my opinion, this heroine is a symbol of female passion and female love. you may notice that in the middle of the program in music, there is a certain foreboding of the carmen death. but despite everything, my carmen stays undefeated. however, speaking about the final scene, there was one moment to think about. i was confused by the fact that, according to isu rules, in dancing program there has to be uplifting. but what uplifting can be in the scene of the main character death? and after thinking about it for a while … i needed to almost become carmen myself in order to experience what that final scene could become. that's how this final scene was born.

nadezhda: how difficult it was for tessa and scott to get used to new characters? long work was required?
marina: not at all. the talent is talent. it should be simply allowed to reveal the idea with the right development. we, coaches of tessa and scott, are happy people because we can help such big talent to be revealed and to keep it at a high level. after so many years, it is very difficult to stay champions and not be bored to death. but at competitions, i had never heard them say about programs: "boring, again the same" … yes, we never worked with them this way. they never performed drama. it is their first program where they have not matching and have confrontation (opposition) on ice. but for this reason it is very interesting to skate.

nadezhda: this summer, in your team, there was an absolutely unexpected event -- a break up with igor shpilband. how much time was spent to make the updated coaching staff work?
marina: the situation was really difficult. and dramatic, and even tragic for me. but when you have "kids" to care for, pupils – the maternal instinct works out, probably. the coaching team, surprisingly for me, was quickly created. i didn't have a thought about candidates to replace igor as it all happened very quickly. for example, i called maurizio (knowing that he already has contracts) and he arrived in a week. probably, this was the right moment.

nadezhda: but when at their “home”' grand prix in canada, tessa and scott received very low marks for technique. i had a thought: yes, now their mistakes will be examined especially carefully.
marina: it is natural that they are looked under a microscope and are judged in a different way. they are olympic champions. they are world champions. it has obligations. but if there are complaints against my duet (if they done something wrong), we do everything to fix it. [no matter how excessive the criticism,] it only acts as motivation, spurring them and me. after skate canada we considered all remarks. for example, we need to correct a step sequence. we were told that partners shouldn't be apart with a distance bigger than "a hand in a hand".

nadezhda: that simply means that you haven't enough time to start? tessa and scott withdrew from finlandia because of scot’st injury just at the last minute, as far as i know.
marina: yes i even already had a ticket in my hands! but the physiotherapist advised not to go on this competition. not because the neck injury was serious, but because eight hours in a long flight could prevent the recovery. and it was important to us to be ready to their first grand prix. yes, in canada, kids certainly weren’t flawless. they gave a reason to find fault with them. but i think in spite of that, the high level of couple was obvious to everybody. besides, they were learning the most difficult lifts. it takes more time than simply repeating last year's elements. and tessa and scott are not robots.

nadezhda: by the way, was carmen a long creation?
marina: yes. it was long.

nadezhda: unusually long?
marina: yes. a lot of time has been spent on cutting the music [i can give an example – when tessa and scott do their spin, notice that there are two types of music, strings that are floating and smooth with a very steady beat underneath. rodion shchedrin’s original music was just the strings, but that alone doesn’t have a beat. the technician who mixed tessa and scott’s carmen music put in the beat with those low, steady notes, finding the right way to mesh them and the strings. the result is true to rodion but it meets the isu criteria]. judges at practices can't have a look at whole program — athletes most often skates it by pieces — but judges can hear music. therefore it is important to track the plot development only by music. when the whole composition was created, everything turned out quicker, but it was necessary to polish and work out the details of each element. we started training on june 5 and the program was actually ready only by the end of summer.

nadezhda: and usually choreography takes about a month?
marina: even less.

nadezhda: you know, i have been reading comments on your carmen. i see some regrets: why such magnificent dance cannot be left for the next season, after all it is worthy to be performed on olympic games.
marina: if it is worthy of the olympics, that’s great! in last olympic games, in vancouver, we were told: ah, what a fine program with mahler's music. it is impossible to make anything better. and so -- here we are doing something better. it means that we are going to work further.  

marina zueva: now tessa is full of female feelings and can express dramatic nature and delight of love
by olga ermolina

marina zueva: now tessa is full of female feelings and can express and portray the dramatic nature and delight of love.

olga: your canadian duet has performed already on the grand prix circuit and maia and alex are going to have debut in moscow. what could you tell about their condition (form)?
marina: now both couples are ready as they have to be ready to this period of time.

olga: there are a lot of talking about new free dance of virtue and moir. on the one hand, this subject and this music are often used in figure skating, but on the other hand, the program turned out completely modern.
marina: certainly, it is the new program in a literal sense. this season tessa and scott have not repeated any elements from last year’s repertoire. all lifts are new; rotations are new; twizzles are different; step sequencers were created to interpret the music and project the character of the dance. in total -- everything is new! difficult transitions between difficult positions. lifts are absolutely new. and each lift is done with the thought of the music and correlates to the music. lifts are not like just element. they are corresponding with musical moment, character and piece of music.

olga: you were the initiator of coloring the program with a special sensuality?
marina: it is the talent of the athletes. i only wanted to show the other part of tessa and scott 's talent. usually they are skating in a lyrical-dramatic key. this is them at their best: their image and their style. but this program is new because i wanted to show dramatic nature in their presentation. and of course, the carmen theme -- what else can brilliantly present female nature? this program is full of the conflict and dramatic nature. usually tessa and scott work in a manner of unity -- love in one word. they focus on matching. but in this free dance, everything is going on contrast: love and drama.

olga: are you confused by the fact that italian couple anna and luca also picked carmen? will direct comparisons arise willy-nilly?
marina: it is good. sometimes some couples or athletes choose carmen programs in same season. there were two carmen at olympic games from katarina witt and debi thomas, and best carmen won. there were four programs on “the man in the iron mask" movie soundtrack, and the best "mask" won.

olga: when you were designing this program, could you guess who else will take this theme?
marina: certainly, no. this program was designed by me for tessa several years ago. simply she was not ready for it that time. and now tessa is full of female feelings, and can express dramatic nature and delight of love.  

marina zueva: champions are obliged to move their sport forward
by elena vaytsekhovskaya

“all of tessa and scott's lifts are new this season,” said marina making comments about programs of her students. "they are unique in difficult dancing connected with difficult positions. that's why lifts look interesting. for next year, i even would like the complexity of such lifts was somehow reflected in the isu rules. it could be additional points or any bonuses. when you keep old elements in the program, they can be not trained particularly. in our case, the new work took a long time. by the way, it was one of the reasons why a performance at the category "b" competition before grand prix was considering as an important start for us. we chose finlandia."

elena: and why you could not go?
marina: it turned out so that on the eve of the departure to finland, scott slightly stretched his neck making the final lift of their short dance. our physiotherapist told us: there is no problem continuing training and performances, but they can’t spend eight hours on the plane, motionless. we could aggravate the injury and receive a new set of problems. therefore we had to withdraw from finlandia trophy though i managed even to be registered on flight and to receive a boarding pass. i suggested tessa and scott to change that ill-fated lift, or not to do it at least at the first competition -- skate canada. but here, the figure skaters were resisting: champions they are always champions.

elena: what happened by the way during the performance of this lift in canada when judges penalized it?
marina: tessa's dress was reeled up on the scott's head and they "got stuck". if all this would be at the end of a season, i am absolutely sure kids would cope with a situation. but here scott instead of changing a position as it was supposed on a plan, simply stopped between rotations from surprise.

elena: even if i don't take this lift into account, i have to admit that i've never seen before so many small mistakes from your athletes.
marina: i agree, it is so. we’re in the final stages of training. after the injury, scott got ill – he got a bad cold so we simply didn't manage to put in the amount of work which should be done according to the plan. that's why we had to compete but not at our best. therefore i am especially happy how tessa and scott held it all in canada: for their conditions of that time they made even more than they could.

besides, i repeat: it is easy to be in good shape at the beginning of a season skating old tricks. transitions, new positions, spins -- everything that tessa and scott had to do was necessary to for a start. i’m not complaining, don’t get me wrong. i'm simply trying to explain why the beginning of a season developed like it has. but i always stuck to the position that champions are obliged to move their sport forward. they have to be innovators.

elena: how and when you got the idea to create carmen for virtue and moir?
marina: i thought of it about five years ago when tessa and scott only showed up at adult level. everybody was talking that in couple only scott is visible (could be seen). that he is a real dancer and brilliant. and tessa, she is beautiful but she is like a shadow. besides she wasn't a brunette. and here i began to think: what's the matter? tessa has perfect build (body-structure). she has excellent skills ... that means, it is necessary to find simply her a subject which could show all of her potential as a partner.

earlier all "love" subjects performed by tessa and scott were like illustrations: "scott loves tessa". probably, she was capable to dance carmen even in her 17. but hardly she could make it like it turned out this season.

elena: by what ideas you were guided working over choreography?
marina: to think out something like that which in figure skating has not yet.

elena: and you decided "to give sex"?
marina: i would tell dramatic sex. naturally, before beginning to work, i revisited all carmen which ever existed in figure skating. honestly, i think the closest to an ideal on musicality and execution is the carmen from natasha bestemyanova and andrey bukin. the fact that tessa since the childhood was working with the ballerina who taught classical ballet and a modern style made the task easier. i even invited ballet choreographer for help. some things in the ballet and a modernist style are differ from what is accepted in figure skating.

elena: when in the summer you broke up with the coaching partner igor shpilband, there were many forecasts that this will provoke fail in quality of skills of your duets. had you to face any negative consequences in connection with all this history?
marina: certainly. for me the tragedy was already that we had to break up. however, i could not continue to work at such conditions which were offered by igor, i didn't find it possible.

elena: you mean igor's desire to work with new couples separately from you?
marina: yes. he wrote to me about it in the letter. that he wants to have separate group with which he plans to work at a skating rink in the best time and so on. i tried to be agreeable, but igor told me that he had made the decision already and he was not going to change it. so initially it is his decision, not mine

elena: you found a replacement quickly?
marina: it was difficult process. on the one hand i knew that i will find coach. in america there are a lot of great experts who work very well even if it is not as i’m used to. …

elena: when in march virtue and moir became world champions, and davis and white became the second, i wasn't sure that such distribution of places was fair: your second duet was pleasant to me in nice even more than the first. and in group there were no disagreements about it?
marina: for a long time we got used to that questions of justice with the marks. result are not subject to discussion in group at all. competitions took place. medals are handed over -- that's all. there are no discussions and any offenses. i am constantly teaching all athletes to whatever the result is, it is necessary to be able to accept it -- to be able both win and to lose.

elena: but, you see, it could happen and so that figure skaters "suffer, suffer, suffer" in silence all that seems to them unfair and then simply leave the coach.
marina: if they suffer, then yes, it is possible "to blow up" at the most inappropriate moment. but if you were taught to think about everything in a right way, quickly you understand that being defeated isn’t the tragedy. it didn't turn out here, it will turn out in another time. the same meryl and charlie arrived two weeks later after the worlds on team trophy and won against tessa and scott.

elena: the olympic programs for your pupils have already exist for you?
marina: yes. and for a long time.

elena: there is universal known truth that the olympic programs have to be special.
marina: they are special by definition …. i would say that a question is not about particular programs. but first of all each champion has to bring something new for sport. i also make it a starting point when i am creating programs. in my opinion, for us, it works out.

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