Benoît Richaud: "Music is the number one art for me"
January 10, 2024
By Iana Saveleva
Photo © Iana Saveleva
Former competitive ice dancer Benoît Richaud is a world-known choreographer with an impressive roster of skaters he has choreographed for (his Wikipedia entry lists over fifty names!). His work often evokes strong reactions from skating fans and one thing is for sure: it never goes unnoticed. During the Cup of China, we had the chance to catch up with Benoît for a short yet inspirational conversation, discussing his sources of creativity, the choreography process, music, and more.
Every season, we enjoy watching your choreographies; they are numerous and diverse. Could you share your source of inspiration?
Well, it's hard to describe; it's not just one thing. I would say my life presents me with many directions, and through all my life experiences, I find inspiration. It's truly about my life - where I've been, what I've done, the challenges, the joys; all of that fuels my inspiration.
Interesting! How do you translate your experiences into movements?
Actually, the way I express myself is significantly more rooted in movement than in talking or writing. Some things are very hard to describe... But my mode of expression truly revolves around movement. So, there's always this duality: you want to explain something, but you cannot really explain, yet the movement conveys what you feel.
What does your choreography process look like? Do you create ideas in advance in your mind, or does the whole process start on the ice?
There is no one way; it is always very different. This is because I create for people, not for myself - a crucial part of making choreography for skaters. I tend to prepare less and trust my gut feeling. I am not stressed or scared. The only thing we prepare in advance is the music, of course. But often, I have many music options. Then, from there, we create something with the skater. I don't like to create a wall. We already have limits due to the rules, which is why I prefer to keep the creative process broader and more open. For example, for Adam's short program this year, we had different music options. Then we just went onto the ice and tried to create something without thinking about the program but only thinking about the music. We just started to work, and then it came alive. In fact, we didn't plan to use "The Prophet" by Gary Moore initially. However, upon trying it, we realized it was the right choice.
How much do rules restrict your creativity? Is it difficult to adjust your ideas to them, to things like time limits, step sequence regulations, and so on?
I think I know the rules very well, so it's easy for me to adjust to them. Actually, I like and appreciate the rules because they challenge me. I see them as a challenge for myself when I have to find a way, and I enjoy that. Of course, I could and would love to create without the rules too, but my point is that I've never thought they were difficult.
The music you use for your programs is always quite unique. Where do you find it, and how much time does it take to discover the perfect piece?
Music is the number one art for me; it touches me the most. It has always been an important part of my life, and I listen to music constantly. I also have a strong connection with Cédric Tour, who not only coaches Adam but is also a musician. We exchange musical preferences almost daily. The perfect selection comes after extensive listening, and we invest a lot of time in it. It's all about taste. Of course, I appreciate well-known music, such as classical pieces, but I also enjoy exploring pieces that haven't been used in figure skating yet. Even when I use a popular composition, I try to create choreography in my own unique way.
Could you elaborate on your music arrangement process with Cédric Tour? Do you typically start with the musical piece or the program layout?
Usually, we begin by preparing the music since it requires more time, while choreography is constrained by the skater's specific schedule. However, we often make adjustments to the music during the choreography process, which tends to be quite a rapid task.
How do you both manage to arrange music in a way that it perfectly fits program timing?
Well, Cédric just knows me very well; he's like an extension of myself.
Is there a piece of music that you would personally like to use? Something that you haven't used before?
I definitely want to use all the well-known classical pieces, such as "Swan Lake," "Bolero," "Carmen," "Moonlight Sonata," "Adagio," and more. And I want to interpret them in my own very modern and contemporary way.
You've been working with skaters from all over the world, with different approaches, skating styles, mindsets, languages. What are the main challenges that you face in your job? And what are the most enjoyable aspects of it?
One of the most interesting aspects of my job is working with everyone. It makes me realize how vast the world is and how small we are. I try to stay true to myself as much as possible. But in each case, I must find a way to make a skater shine. It cannot be uniform because every person is different. It's not only about culture but also about personality. I believe the key to creating good choreography lies in the ability to feel a skater, and I think I have the skill to sense their needs.
Could you name three favorite programs you've choreographed? Programs that you've been the most satisfied with personally.
It's very hard for me to choose because usually, I'm not satisfied with my programs. I barely even watch programs I created in the past.
In this case, maybe you can choose one of the most memorable performances of a program you choreographed?
I would say Adam's free skate at the previous Grand Prix (Grand Prix de France 2023 -ed). I watched it live, and it was quite spectacular to feel that moment.
And a random question to end our talk: why is your Instagram profile black & white? Is there any specific reason for that?
There is no specific idea behind it; it just really speaks to me. I like it because it looks minimalistic, simple, classy, and beautiful, and it pleases my eyes.
Thank you very much for your time; best of luck to you and your skaters, and we're looking forward to seeing your new masterpieces.