Ice Network

Guignard, Fabbri show deep love for Italy on ice

Five-time Italian silver medalists prioritize connecting with audiences
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Italy's Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri will go up against teammates Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte at the 2015 Rostelecom Cup in Moscow this week. -Getty Images

Over the last several seasons, Italian ice dancers Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri have been in the shadow of their more titled compatriots, 2014 world champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte. Recent results, however, show a clear upward trend for the less-heralded team, who are beginning to make a name for themselves.

Coached by 2002 Olympic bronze medalist Barbara Fusar-Poli, Guignard and Fabbri have come a long way, and are now a team that can compete at the top level of the ice dance discipline. The Italians pay special attention not only to the technique required in modern ice dance but also to the deeply emotional content of their programs.

Guignard and Fabbri began the season by taking the silver medal at the 2015 Lombardia Trophy in Sesto San Giovanni, Italy, finishing behind Cappellini and Lanotte. They then finished fourth at 2015 Skate Canada.

Icenetwork spoke with the duo about the start of the new season, their journey as a team, the challenges of competition and their moving programs.

Icenetwork: You performed well at 2015 Skate Canada, performing two new strong and competitive programs. How do you feel about the start of your season?

Guignard/Fabbri: The beginning of the season has been really positive for us. Before taking part in 2015 Skate Canada, we competed at Lombardia Trophy, where we received very good feedback after both programs. Obviously, we also got some suggestions on what to work on and were given some small adjustments for the Grand Prix.

In any case, since we started building up the new programs, we immediately fell in love with them and we never had any doubts on the choices we made. We were so enthusiastic that we couldn't wait to show them to the audience. Now, after the new feedback from Skate Canada and the results we achieved, we can firmly say that we are proud of our hard work.

Icenetwork: You've competed together since 2010, improving your competitive results at major events, year after year. Does this indicate that you prefer to improve more slowly as opposed to at a faster rate?

Guignard/Fabbri: When we started skating together, Marco had only switched to ice dance (from singles) for a couple of months, and we were immediately thrown into the senior level with no experience together. Furthermore, in ice dance, if you don't have a background in juniors it takes a little more time for judges to get to know you and appreciate you. So, considering all of these things, this is probably the reason why our results are improving gradually. However, the fact that each season we reach better results tells us that we are developing our qualities as skaters every year and that we can still improve a lot.

Icenetwork: One competition that has proven difficult for you to improve your placement is the Italian championships, where you have earned five consecutive silver medals. Do you see yourselves improving to gold at this event soon?

Guignard/Fabbri: We will continue working as hard as we can to reach this goal. We obviously understand that this will not be easy, considering that Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte are former European and world champions, which means that we are talking about skaters who have reached the top of our discipline.

Icenetwork: What are your general thoughts on Cappellini and Lanotte, who you will go up against this weekend at the 2015 Rostelecom Cup?

Guignard/Fabbri: We've been competing against Anna and Luca for many seasons, and we've always seen them as a really solid couple. It's very rare to see them make mistakes and, in many situations, this quality makes a big difference. We also think that in terms of interpretation, very few teams come close to them, as they are able to create a strong connection with the audience in any program.

Icenetwork: Marco, at the beginning of your career, you were the Italian novice ice dance champion with future European pairs bronze medalist Stefania Berton, but you then concentrated on singles skating until 2008. What make you decide to come back to ice dancing?

Marco Fabbri: My last two years as a singles skater were hard for me. I endured some small injuries that forced me to skip many competitions. Someone also stole my skates right before the 2008 national championships -- that's why I couldn't compete there. I started feeling that my emotions for figure skating were changing.

So, after this difficult period, I decided at first to stop skating. However, after just a few weeks, I realized that I wasn't ready to leave figure skating yet, but I wanted a new adventure and I thought ice dance could give me what I was looking for…and I was right!

Icenetwork: In the portion of your short dance where "Torna a Surriento" is played, the following lyrics can be heard: "T'alluntane da stu core…da sta terra de l'ammore," which translates in English to, "You go away from this land of love." Charlène, you are from France and Marco is from Italy. What is the land of love for you both as a team?

Guignard/Fabbri: Considering that we skate in Italy, we live in Italy and that Charlène became Italian and fell in love with this country, Italy is definitely the land of our love, both on and off the ice. Obviously, France also has a big role in our hearts. First of all, it's the place where Charlène lived until the age of 20 and where her family still lives. Moreover, it's the country where we had our first tryout together, one of the sweetest memories we have.

When we started talking about some ideas for the new short dance, believe it or not, we also took into consideration the option of skating to French music, as there are some marvelous French waltzes. But in the end, our hearts brought us to this decision. Another thing that made us decide to skate to this music is the fact that our coach, Barbara Fusar-Poli, is Italian, too, and clearly has this "Italianity" in her veins.

Icenetwork: You skate your free dance to music from Schindler's List, a deeply moving piece with both tragic and hopeful moments. Tell us about this selection's emotional influence.

Guignard/Fabbri: Schindler's List was our first option for the free dance for the Olympic season, but then we discovered that another Italian couple, who was fighting with us for an Olympic spot at the time, had already chosen to skate to Jewish music and to represent the drama of the Holocaust. That's the reason why, in the end, we decided to select another piece (Romeo and Juliet) with a story of struggle but one that was completely different from that one.

After that program, we still talked about skating to Schindler's List, but we wanted to make a totally different choice, one that was much more joyful and entertaining, and that's how our Riverdance program was born. So, as you can see, we were destined to skate to this program, sooner or later. You can imagine how excited we were when we finally started building it.

The reason why we had such a strong will to represent this drama is because, although many years have passed since those events, they are still deeply felt by us. Our grandparents lived through World War II and told us many stories about that period, about the fears, about the sufferings…and our choreographer, Corrado Giordani, is from Trieste, Italy, a city where [the Nazi concentration camp Risiera di San Sabba] is located and where you can still see many signs of the pain left by the war. During his career as a ballet dancer, he represented this theme many times in performances. Despite the tragic concept of the program, the end of our free dance leaves a door open to hope, even though the future is uncertain.

Icenetwork: A couple of years ago, Fusar-Poli said in an interview that she's never satisfied as a coach and that this is a part of her nature. Can you tell us about your work with such a charismatic, but also very demanding, coach?

Guignard/Fabbri: We think that Barbara is a very special coach. She can get the best from everyone thanks to her enthusiasm and her will to succeed, and these are also the qualities that brought her the success of her competitive career. Figure skating is an enormous part of her life and it will always be, and this is why we think that her effort and commitment to this sport will allow her to become one of the most respected and appreciated coaches in the world. In just a few years as a coach, she achieved a lot, and we hope that she will achieve even more success in the coming seasons with us, and with other skaters, too.

Icenetwork: What has the collaboration with Igor Shpilband brought to your team?

Guignard/Fabbri: Igor is a great coach; he has incredible experience, and thanks to this, he always knows the best way to go. What we mainly learned working with Igor is the connection between partners. We remember that the first time we went there, he told us many times to skate for each other, to watch each other and to feel each other, because the stronger this connection between partners is, the easier it is to perceive the emotions and the unison of the couple from the outside. This summer, unfortunately, we couldn't manage to get to the U.S., but what Igor gave us in our previous experiences with him is really indescribable.

Icenetwork: Tell us about your short- and long-term goals for this season.

Guignard/Fabbri: We know that it sounds obvious, but our short-term goals for the beginning of the season are to skate clean competitions and to show that we are a solid team, able to perform at its best in every situation and event.

Cup of Russia (Rostelecom Cup) is going to be our first of three competitions in a row, and we would like to receive other positive comments after each. As far as long-term goals are concerned, we would like to end the season with as many lovers of our programs as possible, because for us, it would mean succeeding in transmitting the emotions and the passion that we have while we skate them!