Cappellini and Lanotte: "Ice Dancing would not be a sport without the Compulsories"
Written by: Maria Bagdasarova
Photos by: Kristina Korolyova and Maria Bagdasarova
Over the last three years Anna Cappellini (21) and Luca Lanotte (23) from Italy have proved to be one of the most promising young ice dancing teams. Their results speak for themselves – the couple finished 8th at their first senior European championships in 2007, won silver at Skate Canada several months later and made the top ten at the last Worlds in Gothenburg, Sweden. Cappellini/Lanotte managed to capture the hearts of numerous fans across the world with their incredible musicality, passion and expressiveness of their skating. AS had a chance to catch up with Anna and Luca after their 4th place finish at Cup of Russia which took place in Moscow in the end of November.
Could you please sum up your Cup of Russia experience this year?
Anna: We definitely could have made a better competition. We didn't skate badly. Surely we lost a couple of points here and there and that overall cost us the place because we finished only 1,5 points behind Meryl Davis and Charlie White who were clearly behind us in the Original Dance because they had such a bad performance, but we could have used it if we hadn't had so many mistakes. Obviously it's a bit of a disappointment, but overall we skated like in China where we had such a good time. If you look at it compared to the other teams, it was definitely worst here, but if you consider what we did it's pretty much the same.
Luca: We could have done better in the Free. We were a little bit nervous when we took the ice. The result seems correct to me.
Coming into the FD, did you feel any pressure? With almost 7 point margin you had a very good chance to medal here.
Anna: We didn't feel that much of the pressure because we thought if we had skated a clean Free, we would have probably kept the place. We just wanted to go and perform well like we had already done in China. The difference was that this time we could not afford mistakes. In China, if we had done one or two mistakes we wouldn't have lost the place, here it happened. We didn't expect Meryl and Charlie to pull up like that. They are really great, obviously better than us at the moment; we just didn't expect they could get so many points. True is that there is a lot to work on. Maybe this is a good result. It's going to make us think a lot. Probably if we had kept the third place we would have thought too much of ourselves and we wouldn't work like we definitely are going now. We were so close to the medal and it really hurts to lose it just because of a couple of mistakes. We think we need to feel stronger on the ice and put up a bigger fight. It feels like whenever we take the ice we want to do our job and get out of there. That will come with the experience, but we need to work on that.
The Grand Prix series is over for you. Are you happy with the way it went?
Anna: We didn't expect these results, top 4 at both events. We are happy we got closer to the top teams, because last year we were just above average. This year our skating skills have improved a bit, although we haven't been able to prove it so much like it really is in practice. I think we can learn a lot from what happened today. So that's not such a bad experience. We are just behind the top teams and we're ready to take their spots when they'll be gone and to attack some of them like it happened in China. If the others make mistakes, we are ready; we're right after them, not ages away. We're pleased with the Grand Prix this year.
Could you tell us about your summer preparation? We know you went to Lyon to practice the basic skills with Muriel Zazoui and Romain Hagenauer.
Luca: The school of Lyon is one of the best in terms of basic skills. So we decided to go there this summer. We already knew Muriel, because two years ago we were in Lyon for a week and had a good time. Usually we work with our coach, Roberto Pelizzolla, who is a great technician, but we wanted to improve some other things. Besides, a fresh eye always helps.
Whose idea was to pick Love Story as your Free Dance music?
Anna: It was Luca's. We had always known we would skate Love Story someday. We love the music, we love Sale/Pelletier's program. We thought we may have kept it for the moment we would reach higher level. Among all the music we could think of after Worlds, it just felt to be the best one. We would have wasted a good option. We wanted to try to build a program that would be different from last years's one, we wanted to skate a lot more and put interpretation on a smaller space and to try to be better skaters and feel the program with transitions. Yesterday we got asked at the press conference what was wrong with our interpretation mark. Last year we were a couple who could interpret, but couldn't do anything else. This year we feel although interpretation may have suffered a bit, we are much closer to the others. We found a balance.
Did Sale/Pelletier's program also inspire your costumes? Or at least put the idea of a colour?
Anna: I originally had a pink costume, but at the first Italian competition everybody said it was awful. I had tears in my eyes, but went to the designer to change it, spending an awful lot of money. So originally it wasn't meant to be grey, just Luca's was, but you know, guy's costumes are never that important. We wanted our costumes to be like a college suit, so that it would recall the movie. So I went with the same fabric that Luca's costumes were made of and it turned up grey. Like everything else, I didn't want to rely so much on the appearance; I wanted to show more what we're able to do. You see others wear easier costumes and still make a great impression, like Oksana Domnina's Spartacus costume which looked fantastic even without a single stone on it. I just wanted to do something simple and sweet, but it turned out a bad idea. So now I have a grey costume with numerous stones.
What impact does your longtime choreographer Liudmila Vlassova have on your skating?
Luca: We have been working with Liudmila for a long time. She makes our programs full of power and energy. We work as well with other choreographers like it was at the beginning of this season when we worked a lot with Corrado Giordani. We didn't work a lot with Liudmila on the programs we skate this season, but we'll do that before Europeans and Worlds.
Anna: We've been with Liudmila for ten years, but this year we had some organizational programs, because she lives in Moscow and also does choreography for Massimo and Federica who now train abroad and only come back to Italy shortly before competitions. This time we had some timing troubles. But we're definitely going to work with Liudmila in the future. We were sorry we couldn't do that this year.
Liudmila, being a former Bolshoy Theatre ballerina, has a classical balletic approach. Can you think that at some point you may try something different in your programs, less conservative?
Anna: I think one always needs the ballet as a basis. I don't think how that can become a problem. When we have to deal with something like this year's Original Dance – lindy hop, we hire other choreographers, ballroom dancers, who teach us that particular style. Liudmila is great at taking care of every single detail. She is a great classical choreographer who is very good for the ice. I don't see her classical style ever becoming a problem.
How can you describe the coaching style of your main coach – Roberto Pelizzola?
Luca: Very British.
Anna: Well, skating six hours a day with Roberto is a little bit hard to cope with. He's really precise and blunt and he would always tell you that something is wrong. Psychologically it's quite hard to take.
Luca: He's a perfectionist. He wants to see our performance always at the highest level. With Roberto you risk to go crazy.
Anna: Some couples in our ice rink do have problems with him. After a while you can feel you can't take it anymore, but you can't change him, you can only change your attitude. You must find the strength in yourself to see that he's not doing you any harm, he just tells the truth. You just have to work on what he's saying. You don't have to feel bad about that; you just have to accept because that was true.
Luca: It's not so easy to satisfy such a good coach. But we like Roberto's style, he's very precise. We want the coach to be true, to point out all wrong things. In out opinion it's not correct when your coach says everything is ok when in reality it isn't. With Roberto we know when he says something was good, it really was perfect. It rarely happens, but it gives us big satisfaction.
Anna: It was easier, when we were juniors and were coached by both Roberto Pelizzola and Paola Mezzadri, who was a different, more psychological type of coach. Having them both and practicing a lot less, we didn't feel that training with Roberto was hard. But if you survive it, it makes you stronger.
What are your plans and expectations for the rest of the season?
Anna: Now it's more about the performance. At the Europeans and Worlds we want to go out there, feel strong and show what we can do, what we haven't managed to do so far. We would love do deliver confident performances.
When you first appeared in the senior circuit two years ago it felt like you could seriously challenge Faiella/Scali or even overtake them before 2010 Olympics. As far as we know you have your own view on this issue.
Anna: In our first senior season Federica and Massimo had a really bad year. They had a terrible fall at the Europeans and made a lot of mistakes at Worlds. We didn't even skate fantastic, because for example we both fell at Europeans and Worlds. It was really a matter of them having a bad season while judges were pushing us in our first senior year. I think Massimo and Federica felt a bit uncomfortable with that because they thought we were getting so much closer. They are 27 and 29 years old, so if everything goes naturally, if we both improve I don't see us overtaking them before they retire from competitive skating. But you can never tell, because everything can happen in the sport. Anyway we're really happy they have found their way now. It's just natural when the first team goes up and the second follows them. If they go badly like it was in Tokyo 2007, that's not good for us anyway, because we're the second couple and we will always suffer a little bit from that. Anyway, we have to improve so much and that is what we're worried about.
When we compete at Nationals, we feel that the judges are trying to show us that we're the second couple. I think they're under marking us a lot. At last year's Nationals the margin after the Compulsory Dance was already 10 points and it went into 50 overall. It's really weird when you compete in your country because I think they should try to put you up. They definitely try to send us a message. After the first Italian competition this season we felt really bad and not because of the way we skated, but because we thought: "God, we haven't improved a bit because we're still so much behind them". We are totally fine with being the second couple, we want just to get closer and we want a word for the work we're doing.
Anna, when you sit in the Kiss'n'Cry you seem to never be satisfied with the scores.
Anna: (laughing) Actually, Luca is the "score guy". He always knows what we got last time. I listen more to the comments and can't realize right on the spot how low or high the scores are. Maybe that's my natural face, I don't know.
This year ISU made changes in ice dance rules. Was it difficult to you to adjust your programs to the new requirements?
Anna: It really was, especially for the OD. We picked the music and got very enthusiastic about it. We started to build the program while Roberto suggested putting elements first being afraid that we would not find time and place to put the transitions and simply all required elements. We didn't pay attention to him at the beginning, because we were so excited about the music and the ballrooms dancer we worked with. After a while we felt that something was not right. We sat down in front of the computer with music and element and tried to place them like a puzzle. We had to place the twizzles right at the end of the program just because we had no other place to put them.
Most couples place twizzles right at the beginning of the program, apparently to get rid of this element as soon as possible.
Anna: That's a matter of the concentration. Twizzles are not that hard to do, you just have to be focused. Sometimes when you start off the program you don't feel confident enough and you need a minute to feel good. That's what I think happened to Charlie White. He didn't feel good enough and had to do the twizzles and messed up at the beginning. Probably if he had had something easier he would have got better into the program.
How do you feel about the elimination of the Compulsory Dance which is no more going to be a part of the ice dance competition after Vancouver?
Luca: I'm strongly against that. Ice dance is not going to be dance anymore without the compulsory.
Anna: I think ISU can try to make some other adjustments. If the CD doesn't get enough TV ratings, why just don't show it. Let's do it at the practice arena, but keep it. They have to make the way around, because they are going to destroy the ice dance, people will not be able to do all the dance stuff anymore. It's basics, you can't take it away. We will be more like single skaters doing something together. Compulsory creates a very nice feeling and teaches you the real ice dancing technique. Once it was all about the technique, now it's all about the show. We get that people like show, but we need keep the compulsory for the sport. It won't be a sport anymore without it. We risk to get kicked out of the Olympics.
Are you scheduled to do any shows before the Europeans?
Luca: Yes, in December we have a show in the north of Italy and in January we're scheduled to participate in a show in Milano.