Ice Network

Pogorilaya uses acting skills to ramp up drama

European silver medalist stresses importance of understanding music
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Anna Pogorilaya often brings a high level of intensity to the ice with her programs. -Getty Images

Anna Pogorilaya has been one of the most consistent performers on the world stage since entering the senior ranks in 2013-14. Because of her looks and her mature presence on the ice, the European silver medalist and world bronze medalist gives off the appearance that she is older than her 18 years. Pogorilaya spoke with icenetwork about her programs and the way she keeps improving her skating.

Icenetwork: We've really seen you expressing yourself on the ice in this competition, paricularly in the short program ('Scent of a Woman'). What have you worked on since the Grand Prix Final?

Anna Pogorilaya: Obviously, nothing comes without work.

We're constantly working to make the program cleaner and sharper. We worked on both technique and emotion. We also worked on me overcoming myself psychologically. Nationals were even more nerve-racking for me than the event here (Pogorilaya finished fourth in Russia). Maybe that also pushed me further.

Icenetwork: Tell us a bit more about your short program.

Pogorilaya: My short program speaks for itself. It's a tango from Scent of a Woman. I've liked this music for a long time. I discussed the idea of skating to a tango with my coach, and we decided that it was a good idea. Then we started discussing it with Misha [Ge] (who choreographed the piece), and he confirmed it would be excellent.

There is a lot of passion in tango -- passion inside. It is a dance of two people, a man and a woman. I dance it alone -- maybe for the better, maybe for the worse, I don't know -- but I am imagining that I'm skating with a partner. There are even moves for expressing that in the program.

Each time we practice this program, my choreographer and I always try to improve the performance. We add little things here and there. Also, there are things which are lost along the way, so we try to keep the program fresh.

Icenetwork: What about your free program?

Pogorilaya: It's a program about love between a man and a woman. The man and woman are living in two different countries. The woman is waiting for her loved one, and she is living with many emotions. I am interpreting the feelings she experiences.

Icenetwork: Was it your idea?

Pogorilaya: Yes, it was my idea, although I don't live it myself (she laughs). It's always more comfortable for me to show a story I can understand and feel.

Icenetwork: Nikoli Morozov devised your (free skate) program. Did he start from your story, or did you start from the music he found ("Modigliani Suite," "Le Di a la Caza Alcance" and "Memorial Requiem")?

Pogorilaya: He found the music, and then I created the idea and the story after it. Actually, Nikoli thought that in this program I should be a strange girl coming from a different world. I couldn't understand his idea, so I just picked mine instead! (She smiles.)

Icenetwork: There is a lot of tension and drama in your programs. How do you relate to drama?

Pogorilaya: There is not much drama in my life, fortunately! But I think I can translate these stories on the ice, and interpret them. They are comfortable for me.

The most important (thing) is really to have a story. Several years ago (in 2013-14), I skated to Pirates of the Caribbean. At that time, I was still very young (she was 15 at the time), and I must say that I didn't understand the story until the end of the season! That made it very difficult for me to portray it on the ice. I could skate the program, for sure, but I couldn't understand what I was skating, and why I was skating it.

It's important for me to understand, if I want to interpret and feel what I am skating. It's difficult to explain. It's very important to choose a music piece I can understand. I study with actors, in order to better interpret my programs. It becomes essential to feel the story, so that it becomes understandable for me -- and for the audience.

Icenetwork: You're working with actors?

Pogorilaya: I am. I have an acting coach, just like I have a skating coach. We have group lessons at the club, and I have private ones, too. I've been studying for the last two years, to be more of an actress on the ice.

Icenetwork: Do you feel that ladies skating is going toward more expression and interpretation?

Pogorilaya: In figure skating, the focus seems to be more on the jumps, with lots of little girls doing triple-triple-triple combinations. But today, the attention is on clean programs. If you skate clean, you'll get good components. We try not to make it kids' skating but women's skating. I always enjoyed women's skating, even when I was little.

Icenetwork: How do you relate to audiences? How do you "feel" them?

Pogorilaya: A lot. Yesterday (Friday), when I took the ice, I could hear the standing ovation the crowd was giving to Carolina Kostner. It gave me energy, even though it wasn't meant for me. I feel how strongly an audience reacts to my skating. They really support me and give me energy.

Icenetwork: Many skaters stay in their bubble. Do you?

Pogorilaya: I can hear the audience during my program. In fact, I hear everything and can pay attention to every detail of what's going on in the stands. During my free program yesterday, I could hear distinctly the moment when the crowd started to applaud each one of my steps. That helped me a lot. In fact, it's like exchanging energies: I give the audience some energy, and the audience gives me its energy back. It's so great. Now I really enjoy it.

Icenetwork: You are known as one of the fiercest competitors on the circuit. Where does that come from?

Pogorilaya: It's probably just my character. It was the same when I was a child, when I started skating.

Icenetwork: May I ask you what you did with the huge teddy bear you received after your short program?

Pogorilaya (smiles broadly): For the time being, I gave it to my coach (Anna Tsareva). I have no idea how she is going to transfer it to Russia, but she will find a way. She has two children, a girl and a boy, aged 10 and 11. They may well fight for it!

Maria Korobova, from Match TV, and Elena Vaytsekhovskaya, from Sport Express, helped to translate Pogorilaya's words for this article.