Seeking more consistency, Amodio tones down actFlashy Frenchman collaborates with Bourzat, returns to first coach
Is Florent Amodio, one of skating's freer spirits, adopting a more measured approach?
In 2011, the Frenchman performed his free skate at the world championships to a medley of the Black Eyed Peas, OneRepublic and Michael Jackson -- and included vocals, despite the fact the ISU didn't yet permit them for singles skaters.
The then European champion told reporters, "[Vocals] turned the performance more into a party." The judges may have agreed: They didn't take a deduction, and Amodio placed a respectable seventh.
That party is a distant memory. Last season, after three consecutive years on the podium, he placed 13th at Europeans. His performances at the Sochi Olympics put him a lowly 18th. With his confidence reeling, Amodio withdrew from the 2014 World Figure Skating Championships.
This season, the 23-year-old is determined to turn the tide.
"I know what I can do, and that is why I keep going and working a lot," Amodio said last week during a training break at Michigan's Novi Ice Arena, where he is working with Fabian Bourzat.
Amodio can use whatever lyrics he likes this season with the new rules, but he has decided to exercise some restraint. His free skate is to a medley of movie soundtracks, including Blood Diamond and The Lion King, and his short program is to music from the 2009 French film Le Concert.
"My free skate has vocals, but not so much, actually," he said. "For sure, I was the first one to use vocals, but I want to use them in a smart way. ... I want to create an atmosphere around this African-style, very nice music."
Amodio enlisted dance choreographer Sean Cheesman, known for his stints as a judge and choreographer on the Canadian and U.S. versions of So You Think You Can Dance, as well as his work with Janet Jackson and Prince.
Cheesman brings some skating cred to the table as well. He grew up as a figure skater in Calgary, Alberta.
"Sean has a lot of great ideas," Amodio said. "I first got the idea of Lion King, and we [agreed] it's a nice idea, but we will do it in a very professional way, so we added some very different music in the African style. The last part, [including] the last steps, is set to Lion King."
The skater had planned to debut his new short at the 2014 World Championships.
"The short is very classical music, and I wanted to skate it at worlds, because after the Olympics I wanted to change everything," Amodio said. "I wanted to skate something that I really felt, because during the season I didn't feel my program very well."
"This music is very intense," he continued. "I built [a program] myself during the Art on Ice shows (in early March), and Sean and Fabian said, 'OK, let's try to do this program. Let's make it better, better, better.'"
Amodio never made it to the world championships. Fortunately for him, countryman Chafik Besseghier placed ninth in Saitama, Japan, and earned two men's spots for France at the 2015 World Championships. In assessing his Olympic season, Amodio doesn't mince words, saying simply, "It was terrible."
Changes were in order. Amodio began last season training under Nikoli Morozov but left the peripatetic Russian early on to work with Katia Krier and Shanetta Folle in Paris. This spring, he re-teamed with longtime coach Bernard Glesser, who began teaching him the first day he took the ice as a 4-year-old in his hometown of Cergy-Pontoise, a northwest suburb of Paris.
"I went back with my first coach," Amodio said. "In the years away from him, a lot of things happened. I learned a lot, and he grew a lot, too.
"I went back to him in a different way; I said, 'OK, with us, everything has to be really professional. I want to build something really strong.'"
Bourzat, winner of two European ice dance titles with Nathalie Péchalat, works full time in Novi helping train Igor Shpilband's ice dance couples. He began working with Amodio after the Olympics.
"I was doing Art on Ice, and I was alone, and Fabian took care of me," Amodio said. "He is very serious. He knows me very well; he has been a friend for almost 10 years. That's the thing I need now."
Bourzat said he focuses on Amodio's consistency and skating skills. Glesser, Amodio said, will work on these areas as well as the skater's jumps, including the quadruple Salchow, which routinely failed him in competition last season.
"I have to be more consistent in my technique, that's for sure," Amodio said. "We work a lot on this. Even last year I was working a lot, but things happened, and it was not a good year for me. Now I have four years [until the next Olympics], and I can build something strong with really confident people."
Amodio opens his season at the Lombardia Trophy in Milan beginning Sept. 18. After that, he will compete at the French Masters, which he has won each of the last three seasons. Then it's back to where it all started for him, to Cergy-Pontoise with coach Glesser.
"For me, there is no other choice," Amodio said. "I want to continue figure skating but continue in my own way. I want to work with people who give me a lot of confidence, who know me perfectly. For me, this is the only way to get medals again."
Reporter's notebook: A storm took out power lines around the Detroit Skating Club on Sunday, and outages caused the ice to melt. Coaches scrambled to get ice time elsewhere. Pasquale Camerlengo took his ice dancers to Fraser, about a half-hour's drive away. Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen trained their skaters in Windsor, Ontario, for two days . . . After a stint touring in Japan, four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott is due back at DSC on Wednesday afternoon to train with Sato. Abbott will skate his free this season to Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings;" the program was choreographed with Sandra Bezic in Toronto. He is undecided about his short, and may bring back a program from the past.