Ice Network

Creating the program: Skating full run-throughs

Castelli, Tran battle physically demanding free ahead of Skate Detroit
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Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran have been busy skating run-throughs of their Journey free skate, fighting fatigue from the program's challenging choreography. -courtesy of Marissa Castelli

This is the fourth article in a series about the creation and development of Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran's new Journey free skate program.

After several weeks of running partial sections of their new free skate to a Journey medley, Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran did their first full run-through, with all the elements in place, a little over three weeks ago. They are right on schedule as they prepare to perform the program for the first time in front of an audience and judges at Skate Detroit on Saturday.

"The program developed a lot over the past couple of months," Castelli said. "In the beginning, you could see where it was going, but there was no way we could skate it. We've worked a lot with Julie [Marcotte]; she really helped us push our limits and develop the program even more."

"I'm still surprised we can skate it," Tran added. (As readers may have noticed from the first three articles of this series, Castelli is the more talkative part of the team, while Tran tends to chime in with funny comments.)

"We have mastered the program," Castelli went on. "It's still a work in progress, naturally. We want it to build over the next couple of competitions. We're excited to start with it next week (at Skate Detroit)."

The first run-through went well, although the team found that it needed a little more zing in the last section.

"We wanted more energy at the end," Tran said. "We're really going to have to work on it. We have to make sure we attack it at the very end, where we do the split jumps and I do the butterfly. We've been running it over and over, so now it's more comfortable."

The pair is fortunate that choreographer Julie Marcotte works very close to its training rink, where they train with her brother, Bruno. Julie is able to check in with Castelli and Tran every week or so and keep an eye on how the program is developing.

"She's touched up on parts that weren't quite working and reminded us of things we might have forgotten, like the type of energy or how to go into a turn better, Tran said. "She says, 'I want the steps to go out here. I want you to hold this line more.'"

"Sometimes you're just like, 'I have to not be tired going into this jump,'" Castelli said. "Julie [says], 'This is what I want you to feel in this section. This is what I want you to feel now.' She brings the magic and the energy back into the program, so we're not just going from point A to point B."

When they first skated the program, both skaters found the choreography to be so challenging that they expressed doubt that they would able to do all of the elements. Now that they've reached the point of full run-throughs, maintaining the energy is a major issue.

"I definitely think it's going to be a challenge for us to keep the energy up for every single run-through, but by the end of the season, this program is going to be exactly where we want it to be," Castelli said.

"We're going to keep it for five years," Tran said, interjecting another joke.

In addition to the choreography and elements, there are a lot of other details to be sorted out at this stage of the season. Costumes are at the top of the list, and the day we spoke, Castelli's dress had just been delivered. Yumi Barnett-Nakamura, who has been making Castelli's costumes for years, created a dress in Castelli's favorite color, red.

"I feel like our music is more than just rock and roll music -- it tells a story," Castelli said. "We didn't want [the costume] to be too themed, too much rock. But we didn't want it to be just a random dress. It's a classic dress. It's going to change over the year, probably get tweaked a little bit."

Tran brought some ideas for costumes to the table, but audiences won't be seeing them. In Detroit, he will be wearing a "work in progress."

"I had an idea and a concept, but I got shot down, so we'll wait and see," he said. "After this, we'll get feedback and see if anyone has any ideas on how my costume will complement hers."

"His will be pretty relaxed, everyday. I'm not very big on matching costumes -- I'm more on the man and woman aspect of skating," Castelli said. "He won't be wearing a dress! It will be a shirt that complements my dress."

Details matter, so in addition to sorting out the costumes, the two will be working on every aspect of their appearance on the ice.

"I got a haircut!" Tran said.

"So he doesn't have to worry about his hair anymore," Castelli went on. "I did not, so I'm going to have to worry about mine. This is an exciting time for girls, because you get to play with your hair and your makeup and decide what should happen on the ice. I'm definitely going to have some bright-red lipstick. It's fun to try and match the dress. You can go any way with lipstick now. I think lipstick is a big, big, added bonus to skating, it adds to the costumes."

"I will be normal," Tran said. (Castelli giggles.)

"Mervin will be wearing ChapStick," she explained. "And U.S. Figure Skating will give us feedback on how they think we should be perceived. It's always a fun time of the year."

Castelli admits to having some nerves at this point in the year.

"You're definitely going to freak out occasionally; everyone does," she said. "You feel like you've never skated before in your life and you can't compete. It's emotionally hard to put out the first program, because you want to do it so well, and you only have one shot to show what we've been working on. It's really stressful, because it could go really well or really poorly. We're just really excited to put it out there."

Tran, of course, says he doesn't get particularly nervous.

"Once every season, I do one weird competition," he said. "Last year, I fell on a throw salchow. Once, I fell on a death spiral. I'm not worried."