Ice Network

Cappellini, Lanotte possess natural connection

Italian dancers hope program tweaks made over holiday break pay off
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Anna Cappellini describes ice dance partner Luca Lanotte as "like family to me, a brother and a friend." -Getty Images

Italian ice dancers Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte started this season in a much better place than they did last year. They won their first Grand Prix Final medal (a bronze) one month ago and enter the free dance of the 2016 European Championships in first place. They took the time to discuss their programs and how they work together with icenetwork.

Icenetwork: How do we find you now?

Cappellini: Great! Thursday (when they skated their first-place short dance) was a good day. We're very happy with the training we've done since we changed the second part of our short dance, following the feedback (we got) from our judges and coaches to increase the difficulty and gain more points. We had good training over Christmas. We (skated) almost no exhibitions (so we could focus on) preparing for the European championships.

Lanotte: Our competitions last fall were not too close (to one another), but they were not far enough (apart) from one another for us to go back to training and do the changes we had to (do). So we went from our two Grand Prix to the Final, nationals, Christmas with our families -- an express Christmas, really! -- and then back to work.

Icenetwork: You delivered an amazing short dance to Frantz Lehar's The Merry Widow. How did you come up with that idea?

Cappellini: That was Luca's finding.

Lanotte: It came one year ago, during Europeans. I was in my room and I decided to listen to some waltzes. I heard it and I could picture it right away. I work a lot with images; when music gives me an idea, then the image of what I'd like to dance to will come as well. I could picture the whole: the big salon, the palace, the evening in a good society. ... Then we found the overture, and Anna put the whole thing together. She is the DJ of the team! (laughs)

Cappellini: Let's say that I have some basic knowledge. I did assemble the pieces roughly. We took it to the ice, and we watched the operetta, the ballet and then the movie with Lana Turner. Once we were sure of our choice, I sent the project to Hugo Chouinard to design the piece. I like working on that aspect in the first creative phases of a program. It's one thing you learn when you're in ice dance! (laughs)

Lanotte: It's fun music; it's so lively. It even had the right duration for the Ravensburger Waltz. I believe in signs, and that was one! It's the music that chooses you, in fact! As if it were made for us.

Icenetwork: What did you change since the Final?

Lanotte: We changed most of the second part, the polka with the partial step sequence, and the finale.

Cappellini: Nothing was wrong, really. But we noticed that that part was underscored at the Final, so we tried to add more flow across the ice, making the technical part shorter to leave us more time to do something fun and with more flow at the end. Yesterday (Thursday, during the actual competition), we saw that the changes were already worthwhile. It will be even better as we have the chance to do more run-throughs. It's very encouraging for us before worlds.

Icenetwork: What about the free dance you will perform Saturday?

Lanotte: Fellini's La dolce vita was Anna's idea. After worlds, I had to stay home for one month after my operation for a hernia that I had skated with all season. So I watched and listened to a whole bunch of ideas we had. When I called Anna, I told her I loved Fellini -- the streets of Rome at night, the ending of the '50s -- and I told her, "Let's show the world!" One might think: Italian dancers skating to Italian music -- there's nothing innovative there. But we want to show we're dancers, just like in the times of Barbara [Fusar-Poli] and Maurizio [Margaglio], and show that ballroom dance is really important. We don't want to do what the world is doing; let's be what we are. That was our motto for this season: "Be ourselves." Let's make it fun. We're not just skaters; we're dancers. There was no easier program than this one, actually.

Cappellini: It's true that each time we've gone to this style, it has worked well…

Lanotte: I feel so free in this piece that I can even improvise. I really look at people as I skate. This program puts us in the best condition to do this, much better than if we were chasing other people's styles.

Icenetwork: What do you rely on when you are dancing? Fellini's images? Your own?

Lanotte: We rely a lot on our chemistry, and on what we bring each other, actually.

Cappellini: What makes it easy for us is that we work off each other a lot. He does not do the same style each time, and I don't respond the same either. (Looking at him) You're my biggest thing when we are on the ice. I skate with my feelings and with what Luca is doing.

Lanotte: The images give the indications at the beginning, and also when the program is ending -- they indicate the kind of taste we want to leave the people with. But during a performance, the other (person) is the real focus. We try to find the connection. I don't know if it makes sense...an artistic process is always a little bit crazy! (laughs)

Icenetwork: You mention your connection. Did your marriage, Anna (to pairs skater Ondřej Hotárek), change anything?

Cappellini: My marriage was a great personal achievement! It proved that Ondřej and I managed to make our relationship survive, amidst such a crazy life we have as sports people (laughing). It has not changed much in our daily life. Ondřej and I remain in our "bubbles." Sometimes I won't see him in a day and will just text him "good luck." … You know, just after our honeymoon he left for Canada to practice. It's even fun to call him "my husband."

Lanotte: Yesterday he asked me, "Where is my wife?" For a while, I wondered, "My wife? Who's that?" (laughs)

Cappellini: It will get real after we're done with our competitive careers.

Icenetwork: Who supports you most, then? Your husband or your partner?

Cappellini (laughing): [Luca] takes the psychological side, for sure!

Lanotte (laughing as well): Ondřej gets the best part, really. She is problem-free when she comes back home! More seriously, Ondřej and Anna look so good together, they were meant to be together.

Cappellini: But as long as we skate, Ondřej and I will just be girlfriend and boyfriend to each other. Coming back to your question, the day when I don't speak to Luca will be weird. He's like family to me, a brother and a friend at the same time.

Lanotte: It's hard to describe the connection we have. We interpret choreography together and are connected through it. It comes so naturally.

Cappellini: We like each other, of course. But we also have a personal natural connection. We are such friends. In real life, I feel free to play with him as I want. I'm not afraid of him. It's made the work fun.

When our career is over, that may be the most important thing that will be left: the way we've experienced human relationships, made them work and made them work well. Even tough things, we had to work on them. There was no way we could do otherwise. When you are a team, you need to bring the very best out of the other.

Icenetwork: How do you see this competition, after the difficulties you experienced last season?

Cappellini: Last season was an uphill battle, really. That's what happens when you're doing something out of your comfort zone. Ice dance is so much about the effect a program has on you. You try to display different things, and sometimes the way those things add up doesn't affect people the way it should. Ice dance is in the nuances, in the way you look at each other. You may lose things that people would strongly relate to.

This year we really prepared well, and hopefully we will show our free dance the best we can and do that program justice.

Lanotte: We'd like to pull out that performance we want. Numbers don't depend on us. We want to show that we are strong, that we are champions. (We want to) create an aura on the ice, whether we are first or not...leave the people with a good "aftertaste" of what we've danced.

Cappellini (laughing): So we can say that practicing late in the afternoon on December 31st did pay off!