Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte find a new motivation
March 24, 2015
Photos ©┬áIa Remmel
Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte have experienced a long journey made up of many feelings and challenges. They have told us beautiful and enthralling stories with their programs: Erich Segal’s “Love story”,“Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, Nino Rota’s “La Strada”,“Carmen” and Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville”. In this interview, after the European Championships in Stockholm, Anna and Luca comment on their somewhat difficult season and speak about their new feelings and the motivation they found through them.
The European Championships were very emotional for you. When you look back at the competition what are your thoughts and feelings?
Anna: The competition was very important for us and also important for our future. At the beginning of the season we had such a disappointing competition at the Cup of China. We even asked ourselves if we could meet our level of competition at that point. Of course it was frustating and we had to work past it during the months that followed the China event. Last year we could hardly have predicted the results we got at the European Championships and the Worlds. In a sense, this is a good position from which to compete because you don’t have so much pressure and can express yourself freely, you can be almost carefree, or at least as carefree as you can be at such an important competition.
The short dance here was the turning point for us. The entire day was very stressful, we were pushing very hard and the tension was felt even during the practice. We had to engage ourselves at a very deep mental level, to overcome some negative experiences at competitions in the past. We knew we had to prove ourselves once more, it was a “make or break” moment. I’m so proud because we did even better in the short dance than in the free dance. After that I was more at peace with myself. That was the reason why all the emotions in this competition were so overwhelming. I also think we really deserved our results this time. I personally couldn’t be happier with this competition and I feel that this silver medal is a 100% victory for us.
Where do you think the problems of this season came from? Is it the post-Olympic syndrome or something else? Does it feel different now after the Olympics and the Worlds title?
Anna: There was a period when we felt very tired. Last year we were the only team who competed just about everywhere: the Grand Prix, Europeans, Olympics individual and team event and the Worlds. We also didn’t really anticipate our amazing results. Those results changed a lot in our minds, as after the success, we needed to find new goals to inspire us to skate just as well in the future. After all, you are always trying to win at the Worlds and then the day comes when you win, you have to refind your motivation. Afterwards, you are in the position of defending your gains, instead of trying to achieve something you have never achieved before. You suddenly are on the top of the mountain, you have to look where to go while in full knowledge that the easiest way to go is down. That made us think about our future and finally it was very clear that we didn’t want to stop yet. It’s our life, our sport and we are really passionate about it. That’s why we are staying; that’s our new drive.
Luca: China was a challenging time for us. We could have just given up and said - oh, it’s time to go, but we didn’t, we instead resolved to fight, to try hard and to challenge ourselves. I think that is what strong athletes must do. After the short dance people came to us and asked: are you sad to have only reached third place? We were not sad, it was actually an amazing feeling! We skated with such focus, we were happy that we went through the program without any mistakes and delivered the performance we wanted. Now we skate for ourselves!
Watching you compete now, I feel that you have made some kind of change in your skating, an additional level of depth. Tell me a little bit about your free dance, “Dance Macabre”. Did all the challenges you face make you stronger?
Luca: Yes, it feels different this season. We worked a lot with the interpretation of this program. “Dance Macabre” is a subject that exists in music, in paintings, all throughout art. It’s a dance of death, skeletons and “macabre” that also connotates something grotesque and dark. We interpret it as the dance of love and death. I’m death and she is a living woman. Love is the most beautiful thing that exists in life but it also has many faces. These faces are visible in different aspects of love like passion, seduction and violent passion. Death is something that takes away your life and also your love. In the program, I am death and I’m falling in love with this girl as I want her to be mine. She is trying to resist while I’m trying to drag her into my world, she wants to escape but she cannot. This is the feeling we are trying to invoke in the audience. It’s not easy in terms of interpretation and at the Cup of China we felt that we were not ready for it. Here we finally found ourselves like we did one year ago. We really did some soul-searching to find the darkest and truest parts of ourselves to show to the skating world.
How did you arrive at the idea of “Dance Macabre”?
Anna: We were looking for a different genre compared to what we have done lately. We wanted something a little different because we are often identified with specific kinds of music.
Luca: This idea had already been up in the air for many years, having its place in Anna’s mind. After the last season, when we had our patriotic Italian music by Rossini we felt that now was the time.
Anna: We listened to the Saint-Saëns music and found it very beautiful - I love music that repeats a theme. I don’t get bored with this music, I can listen to it over and over again. When we cut it, we couldn’t decide which parts to leave out. After the Cup of China we were told to maybe change the free dance but we didn’t agree. We love it and we have been able to bring it alive.
You mentioned that you are maybe sometimes identified with some kinds of music and imagery. Can it be dangerous to repeatedly use a certain kind of imagery?
Luca: I think yes, the judges and the crowd can get bored. Figure skating is a sport but it’s also entertainment and you always have to be fresh.
Anna: It’s important to improve your style because you cannot keep doing exactly the same type of music. Sometimes you can go back to what’s natural to you but then again you must also go out of your comfort zone. In the Olympic year it maybe was not possible to experiment too much, we did what was expected from us. Now, we can try different things.
Is your partnership stronger now after all you have come through?
Anna: Yes, it definitely is stronger. Every time we overcome a difficult situation, we add more and more to our relationship. I think we have grown a lot during all the years we have been skating together. We see the young generation coming, strong and fresh, they are incredibly talented and amazing people. But we have something different that we bring to the crowd: our maturity, a story of a man and a woman. Right now, we don’t just skate, we perform our lives on the ice.
What kind of support did you get?
Anna: Just today, I wrote to all the people we work with to express my gratitude. I have to say that they are not only our coaches but our friends.
Luca: We feel like all the people in Italy have helped us. The spirit of national pride has pushed us and it has felt amazing.
You surprisingly changed your coach to Marina Zueva during the off-season. Why did you want to work with her?
Anna: We wanted to go to Marina so she could challenge us from the point of view of choreography. We have always greatly admired all the work she created for Tessa and Scott and Meryl and Charlie. We felt that we wanted to explore this world a bit more and knew it would be highly interesting to work with her. She is a great professional and pays attention to even the smallest choreographic details. Before her, I never heard anyone speaking of the texture of steps and of making them fit with the tempo changes of the music. After China we revisited some things with her in Russia.
But there is a coach who is always by your side, Paola Mezzadri...
Anna: Paola is very emphatic, she is someone we can trust 100 percent. She has known us since we were kids. She “steers the ship” but also always carefully considers our feelings and needs. I think we would have trouble with a different type of coaching.
At the end of our conversation, I asked more about Anna and Luca’s interests off the ice. They said that right now they are very focused on figure skating and their passion for the sport does not allow them to dedicate themselves to anything else. “Of course we allow ourselves little pleasures like going to the theatre, watching a ballet or a movie. These experiences serve well to enrich and inspire us.” Anna added with a smile that she is trying to learn Czech because that is her boyfriend's mother tongue. At the end however, they both again emphasized that right now, no other activities come close to their number one passion, figure skating.