Gregory, Petukhov working with Plushenko

Team choreographing Plushenko's Olympic comeback programs

Ice dancers Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov are choreographing Evgeni Plushenko's Olympic comeback programs.
Ice dancers Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov are choreographing Evgeni Plushenko's Olympic comeback programs. (Getty Images)


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By Sarah S. Brannen, special to
(03/22/2009) - Ice dancers Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov recently traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, to choreograph Evgeni Plushenko's Olympic comeback programs.

Plushenko, the 26-year old who recently announced he will return to competition next season, had considered working with Gregory and Petukhov for nearly two years.

"The original discussion happened when we were on tour with Champions on Ice a couple of years ago," Gregory said in a phone interview. "He liked our "Fallen Angels," [a trio performed with Johnny Weir and choreographed by Petukhov] and he loved the music. We showed him more music and talked about things we could do; he really liked it."

Gregory and Petukhov made plans to work on choreography while on the Canadian "Civeda" Tour with Plushenko, but when the tour was canceled, he invited them to St. Petersburg instead. They arrived on March 3 with music and ideas in hand.

"When we got to St. Petersburg, we brought the music with us and before we got on the ice we had a long session listening to it," said Gregory. Along with coach Alexei Mishin, the three then set to work at the Yubileiny Sport Club. As is common with elite skaters, the choice of music is still under wraps.

"We cannot reveal yet the music or theme," said Petukhov. "But we can tell you that it will definitely be in a new direction, and it will be a big change for him this year. He is not afraid to try new things."

"As in any choreography, he has a lot of input because he has a set style," said Gregory. "Whatever we give him, he makes it into his own style. He knows what he likes and what he wants. It was nice because he has such strong opinions. Mishin was a delight to work with too."

Gregory and Petukhov have previously done choreography for Weir and Viktor Pfeiffer of Austria. They said they are doing both the short and long programs for Plushenko.

Because Gregory speaks Russian, the group worked entirely in Russian on the ice. However, Gregory's visit was cut short due to a family emergency, and she returned to the United States on March 14. Petukhov stayed on for a few more days of choreography before joining her.

Petukhov and Plushenko have been acquainted for a year. "I've known him since he was twelve," said Petukhov. "We were competing together, at different levels."

The international judging system has changed somewhat since Plushenko last competed in 2006. Gregory and Petukhov worked closely with Mishin to maximize levels and transitions. "We have strategies and are working very critically on the levels to make sure everything is the best possible," said Petukhov.

"He's doing shows now," said Gregory. "By May, he's going to be training hard. We're going to go back in early summer and work with him again."

Plushenko has been talking about making a comeback for years, since he won the gold medal in Torino, Italy. Asked whether they think this comeback will become a reality, Petukhov was emphatic.

"This is definitely going to happen," he said. "Otherwise, I wouldn't have gone to work with him."

How do they think he will do in Vancouver?

"As long as he trains consistently, which he's doing now, he'll do well," said Petukhov. "He's trying to improve the other aspects of his skating, not just the jumping. My goal is to take his stronger side and make it look different."

"He is an Olympic champion," says Gregory. "He's a strong competitor, he always has been. He's seasoned and he will give it a good fight."