Ice Network

Cultured Loboda, Drozd ready to make their mark

Russian team looks forward to competing for spot at Winter Olympics
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Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd are looking forward to competing at a high level during their first season on the senior circuit. -Getty Images

Though they'd probably prefer to remain at the junior level for at least one more season, the ice dance team of Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd have already shown the ability to perform on the big stage.

Last season, the Russians needed just 0.43 points in order to top the American team of Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons at the 2017 World Junior Championships in Taipei City, Taiwan. Despite falling just short of the top prize, Loboda and Drozd -- who will make their debut on the senior circuit this season -- were still pleased to depart the event with the silver medal.

With fresh programs and a new set of goals, the duo is now set to tackle their largest challenge since their partnership began in 2012.

Icenetwork spoke with the team about their final campaign as juniors, how they've prepared to take a step up in competition this season, and how they implement various cultures in their programs.

Icenetwork: As you prepare to compete at Skate Canada, how would you say your training is going?

Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd: This is quite a serious and important event for us, and of course, we are trying very hard to prepare for it, working on every detail. We also recently participated at the test skating performances for Russian skaters in Sochi.

Last week, we returned from Lombardia Trophy, which was our debut on the international senior stage and our first competitive event of this season. We are very pleased that we were able to successfully perform there and take second place. This is also good because we looked at what else we needed to improve, what flaws and errors we need to eliminate and in what areas we need to do more careful work. We are now trying to conduct serious preparations for our first senior Grand Prix at 2017 Skate Canada International.

Icenetwork: As a rule, Russian ice dance couples begin preparations for the new season almost immediately after the end of the previous campaign. How did this rule work for you?

Loboda & Drozd: We did not begin to radically change our training system, even in comparison to last season. Like years before, we left in May for vacation and went out on the ice at the beginning of June. During that time, we also invited French choreographer Benoît Richaud to work on our free dance program. Of course, the preparation for the first senior season required more hard work from us and we hope that we've done it.

Icenetwork: You recently said that your team will create some unusual images on the ice. What will these look like within each program?

Loboda & Drozd: We consider these unusual because this season will be something new for us. We thought for a long time about the music for both the free and short dances, and spent a long time selecting various options and thought deeply about them. Therefore, it required more from us to finally decide what we will present in our debut senior season.

Previously, we skated to something classical or lyrical. This time we took music from the Chicago musical for our free dance and, as you understand, it's a completely different style and possesses different emotions. So, it was interesting enough to work on this program because it requires a completely different sense of music. In general, we like our program and we believe that we can express it, and we try our best to do it.

We also invited Natalia Gromushkina, who took a direct part in the production of Chicago, to work on this program. We are very grateful for the work that she did with us. It was a very good experience for us. She is a wonderful person and an excellent professional, so she had many moments that we were able to emphasize on the ice.

As for the short dance, we did not want to be completely trivial, so we took Latin American rhythms, but ones that wouldn't necessarily be perceived as classic Latino. We decided to take, with an observance of all the rules, something a little more modern and interesting. The short dance holds a rhythm of samba-rumba-samba, and the music is from Spanish singer Malu.

We will try to express all the depth of feelings that are present in this music and we hope that the audience will feel this as well because we really express it with sincere feelings.

Icenetwork: What did you gain from nearly capturing gold at last season's junior worlds?

Loboda & Drozd: Of course, we were upset that we could not win the gold. It would have been nice to have another opportunity at the title this season, but unfortunately, our age does not allow us to remain in the junior division. So, all we can do is try to accomplish winning gold on the senior level.

Icenetwork: Everyone knows the high level of competition that exists in senior ice dance. How do you psychologically prepare yourselves to take the ice with teams that have established themselves as champions?

Loboda & Drozd: The competition in senior ice dance is undeniably high. If we take just our two Grand Prix stages of the coming season, Canada and France, then, for example, in Canada we will compete with the outstanding Canadian pairs of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. This will undoubtedly be a very interesting and important experience for us.

As for the French stage, we will compete with the equally prominent team of France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, and this will also be a new and interesting experience for us. We are in anticipation of a new experience and fresh atmosphere. We are also determined to make the most of ourselves.

Icenetwork: Do you agree with the opinion of some that new teams on the senior level don't receive the same amount of points as some of the more established ones?

Loboda & Drozd: You know, it's hard to answer this question because the scores in different competitions are also different. In general, maybe we agree with that point of view because there is such a thing as a rating that plays its role in ice dance. But nevertheless, you need to prove yourself to the audience, judges, and experts and grow your own rating. We think it's very difficult to answer this question unambiguously.

Icenetwork: This season is obviously an Olympic season. The question is probably banal, but have you set reaching PyeongChang as a major goal?

Loboda & Drozd: We will make every effort to fight and will do everything we can in order to be members of the Russian team in PyeongChang. Perhaps luck will smile at us and we'll achieve that goal. We're going to do everything in our power to be there.

Icenetwork: How does the culture you gain away from the sport translate into your programs?

Drozd: We love to visit theaters, various exhibitions, art galleries and like to read good literature. One of my favorite writers is Charles Dickens and his novel Great Expectations. I also like Ernest Hemingway as well as the novel Eugene Onegin by Russian author Alexander Pushkin.

To answer your question, I am absolutely sure that cultural life influences our skating. I believe that ice dance assumes a certain depth of feelings, as well as certain relationships, and we must constantly find a new palette of emotions and feelings, learn something new, and develop ourselves.

How can you express the depth of music if you absolutely do not understand what is it about and do not understand what feelings it requires? If someone takes, for example, classical music, then without getting acquainted with this classic, how will you understand what you should portray on the ice?

I definitely support the idea that athletes should develop; they must learn something new, they may even have to lead an exemplary cultural way of life and show that one always needs to strive for something new and to develop oneself. In my opinion, this approach makes a huge contribution to ice dance.

Icenetwork: Pavel, have you kept up your passion for studying foreign languages?

Drozd: I have, and this also contributes to the sports. It all started with the Spanish language, in addition to English, which I think is compulsory for international athletes, but I also decided to learn Spanish and the basics of French and Italian.

I was pleased to practice Italian at Lombardia Trophy. I believe that the study of languages broadens the horizons of thinking and self-development. Alla is very interested in psychology. She studies it and reads special literature about this subject. In general, we both try to develop, improve ourselves, and then bring something new to our performances to please the audience, judges and all lovers of our beautiful sport.

Icenetwork: In addition to reaching the Olympics, what other goals have you laid out for your first season as seniors?

Loboda & Drozd: This is not a simple question. We do not think specifically about points and podium places. Of course, we want to earn the highest finish and get as close as possible to the podium. But first of all, we understand perfectly well that we are newcomers to senior ice dance. So if using a completely pragmatic approach to this issue, our main goal is to really present ourselves so that we're perceived as a serious senior couple and not like yesterday's juniors.