A new quest for Olivier Schoenfelder.Â
By Reut Golinsky
Photo © Reut Golinsky, Silvia Ulenberg, Ageha, Megi
Each case you can see from two different angles; the classical "the glass is either half empty or half full" situation. One can say: "What a pity they didn't medal in Vancouver; how sad they didn't go to Tallinn and to Turin and Olympic Games were their only competition this season." Or one can say: "How amazing that we were awarded with one more competition with them; two more wonderful programs from them". And I really try to see it the second, the glass half full way.
Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder managed to do something literally impossible. Just a few months after Isabelle gave birth, they were back to competitive ice, trying to fulfill their "quest" (their free dance was on the music of Jacques Brel's "La quĂȘte", which means "quest"). They finished sixth. Not the result I wished for my favourite ice dance couple; not the result they were working so hard for. We all love when impossible dreams come true, but sometimes they just don't. All we can do is to keep going and find new goals. Their programs and future plans were discussed in my interview with Olivier, from the "Art on Ice" show, in Lausanne.
Since you announced your music for the free dance, I have impatiently waited to see it because I really love that song. So I'd like to start with this program. You used an unusual musical arrangement for it; it doesn't start like Brel's song.
Jacques Brel's song was too short anyway. We also wanted to enrich the music a bit. Jacques Brel had a very strong voice and we wanted it a bit simpler, but the instrumental version was too sad and tough to skate to. We asked Canadian musician Karl Hugo for help and he composed the beginning and after that worked on the arrangement of the song itself, to make it more harmonious and soft.
The music starts with children babbling something. Is this because you said that this program represents your entire career which started when you were children?
It's related to what we wanted to tell about our journey in skating, but "La quĂȘte" of Jacque Brel is an apotheosis, the last thing to see. We wanted to start from the very beginning, with children, with their dreams, when they start thinking: "What do I want to do when I grow up?" It's a hint which says that when we were children we didn't know much, we wanted to do plenty of different things, were not sure where to go, what to do. After that, it evolved, and the moment of our meeting, when I met Isabelle - it's when we decided that we wanted to skate together and come to Olympic Games, to this quest.
Your cancan for original dance was such fun to watch. Where did this idea come from? Do you plan to skate this program in shows?
We haven't thought about it yet. Maybe, but not for sure. Maybe for a gala we will need to change it a bit, to make it even more "cancan" - because of the rules, we couldn't make it quite like we wanted to, like a real cancan dance should be. This choice was made because it's something French, and it also is really a typical dance which people go to see in Paris. They visit a cabaret to see the cancan. It's very dynamic and very joyful, so we told to ourselves that it might work. We really enjoyed skating it during practices. It wasn't tiresome; it was energizing and entertaining-we didn't notice the time pass.
Did you know about the discussion that your music was a bit problematic because you used Offenbach's piece and it's not original folk music?
I didn't follow [the discussions] much when we didn't compete. I didn't often check what people said. It's true that the composer wasn't French, but the dance and this music were taken as French; they symbolize France. I think it corresponded to the rules, but maybe there were people who just didn't like it; it's possible.
You had your own blog in French. What happened to it?
Yes, but I stopped writing. I started it because it was nice and I had a bit more time because Isabelle wasn't training [first because of her injury and then because of her pregnancy]. After we were back to practicing, I dropped it. It's a pity, but I didn't get enough feedback and I didn't know if people really followed it or not. Also, there were so many secrets around our comeback - about music choices and everything, and I couldn't say much at that time.
But now, it could be a nice source of news about you. For example, just two days ago I suddenly learned that you plan to participate in this show.
It was decided pretty late. We talked about coming here with Mr.HĂ¶ner, but it wasn't finally decided, because I think he was also waiting to see if we really would come back. We planned to skate in this show last year, but it wasn't possible because of Isabelle's pregnancy. So this year, at the last moment, we were invited.
I really love your program to "Immortal", which you skated here, but I saw it already in Milan a year and a half ago. Will you prepare something new for the upcoming shows?
We still don't know. We didn't have much time to prepare something new as an exhibition number; that's why we used this program. We have a few ideas, but it's still not something exact.
Can it be "La quĂȘte" or was that something created especially for the Games?
Yes, even though it was created especially for the Games, maybe in France we can show it in a gala. Abroad I'm not sure it will necessarily work...
But this song is very known...
Yes, it's known, but... I don't know if we are going to skate it in shows. Maybe...
Tell me more about your future plans.
I will do some shows with Isabelle. This year we concentrated on competing, but now we want to just enjoy skating for the public, without judges and everything; to be able to realize all the ideas we couldn't use in competition.
This is what we will do initially. Afterward, I personally want to coach. I'm going to work with Muriel [Boucher-]Zazoui in Lyon.
Only ice dance or maybe singles too?
It will be mostly dance, but there are different people who come to skate, to train, and to create choreography for their programs, etc. This is what I'm going to do. Isabelle will depart with her husband to somewhere near Annecy; she won't train in Lyon. Maybe we will train a bit together in Lyon and sometimes at her location. Besides coaching, I want to finish my studies in journalism. I have one year remaining to finish. I need to receive my diploma and then I will decide what I want to do with it.
I know that you already worked as journalist at the Masters in Orleans last autumn. How was it?
Yes, I was commentating for TV. It was nice. I don't know whether people liked it or not. I personally liked this experience. I would like to do it again. I need to check to see if there is such possibility with French TV and Eurosport. Right now I'm confident that this is interesting for me, and maybe people would appreciate an opinion of a high-level sportsman.
Are your studies for journalism or sports journalism?
It depends more on the trial period. If, for example, I do it in sports media, so it depends more on what I choose. What we learn is more of general technique; how to write an articles, or things like that.
Are there any other sports apart from skating that you are interested in and would like to report about?
Yes, of course. I love all the sports - almost all of them.
Were you able to see any competitions in Vancouver?
No, because after we finished competing I was with my family for a few days and then we already needed to prepare for "Art on Ice" and we returned to France. I didn't have time to watch anything.
Did you have time to watch skating in Vancouver? What was your impression from the competition? Is there anything you especially recall?
There were lots of things.
Pick something - the happiest or the saddest...
Sad... I could watch the ladies' competition, because we had already finished. The story of Joannie [Rochette] was something very strong. It was very touching. I really admired what she did there. And she also skated very well. It was the strongest moment of all the figure skating competition. I also liked pairs; especially the long program was on a very high level. With this Chinese pair who finally won their Olympic medal, it was superb. Men, I watched less. I followed and saw parts of the short program, but only that.
People say that the gold and silver medalists in dance were on a totally different level in ice dance. Is it true?
Yes-yes, I think so. I absolutely agree with [the results of] this competition and this season. You know, actually, I was disappointed by results of Worlds 2009. They totally deserved their placements at the Games. Personally, I was very glad with those who placed first and second. I really liked them and technically they were absolutely above the others.
One can say: "What a pity we won't see them competing next season anymore." Or one can say: "Finally this creative couple will show us programs not bound by strict rules. Also, we will probably see Olivier with his students in the Kiss-and-Cry or we will listen to his comments during competitions". The glass can be half empty or half full; it's up to you to decide.