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Pechalat, Bourzat look to keep winning

French ice dancers have started the season strong

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat look to continue their winning ways at the Cup of China.
Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat look to continue their winning ways at the Cup of China. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/03/2010) - Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat have long been one of France's major assets in ice dancing. Now, they have become one of the country's best hopes for medals at international competitions to come.

After taking fourth place both at Europeans and worlds in 2010, they are considered as one of the leading teams in the world of ice dancing, where their speed, technique and creative routines have opened new avenues for ice dancing.

They have won the three competitions they have entered so far this season, and they hope to keep their winning streak going at the upcoming Cup of China

Péchalat and Bourzat agreed to share with icenetwork.com about their current work, their vision for ice dancing, and their hopes for the upcoming months.

ICENETWORK: How did you work after last season?

Bourzat: We had planned to train in France for a while this summer, but that was not possible. So we went to Riga, Latvia, instead. It was very interesting there, and we worked a lot.

In fact we have improved tremendously. We have worked a lot to improve our stability and our transitions. As far as our programs go, we have tried to eliminate every hand-to-hand move, as well as parallel skating. We have also worked hard on opening our body, mostly our upper body. It really helps for the Waltz and Tango but also for our free dance. We had started last year when we wanted to "save" our free program, which was way too complicated. Rather strangely, that work is paying off now, on our new program, which we feel so much better.

IN: You seemed to experience some difficulties on your short dance at the beginning of the season [they finished third in Oberstdorf for that segment], how do you view it?

Péchalat: Well, it was a lot of work! We had to learn it. In fact we all have to learn, both skaters and judges, about what short dance really is. There are many constraints; maybe too many, actually. We have only about 15 seconds of real choreography in the middle line.

Things have been changing so fast in the last 10 years. Discovering short dance reminded me of the technical levels, which became the rule in just a few months. Indeed, we wanted to skate in all these early season competitions for that purpose: learn, and check our levels, in order to react fast if we needed to, which we did after Oberstdorf, obviously.

Bourzat: Antonio Najarro [who created Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat's original Flamenco for the Olympic season] has devised our short dance. We have always been used to making up our programs, so it was fun. We discussed with Sasha where we wanted to place our Waltz, our Tango, our median line. Then we gave indications to Antonio, and we set up the whole. Sasha [Zhulin, their coach] [Zhulin, their coach] [Zhulin, their coach] already made up our free dance, we did not want to ask him too much. Also, we like to show different styles. Apart from our coach, I guess we chose the best specialist of Tango.

IN: What about your free program?

Péchalat: You will see, it should be a winning program. The theme is Charlie Chaplin, but not in black and white. Uur program is in full-screen and full color! Also, it is certainly more lyrical than comical. Sasha thinks that skating roles suits us better and will allow judges to see more of our personality.

Bourzat: Creating that program was such a relief after last year's [the duo had set their free program to the more abstract theme of "time"]. Back then we were stressed each time we would put a foot on the ice, wondering if we would be able to skate through. Like, (laughs) "It's only three minutes and 30 seconds into the program, and I am nearly dead, what should I do now?"

Péchalat: Sasha gave us this idea after last year's Europeans in Tallinn. For once, he devised everything. Usually we create our programs ourselves with an off-ice professional choreographer before putting it onto the ice. This time we did not have to create it off-ice at all. What we are working strongly off-ice, however, is our acting skills, as we are working with one of France's most famous pantomime actors.

On the ice, we have practiced our elements separately, then together. We have worked a lot on transitions, too -- in fact it is a much more strategic program, and it does not even show.

Also, we could keep telling a story. It is always so frustrating for an artist to skate a routine that tells nothing. Sasha has always promoted "dramatic" ice dancing, and I think he is right.

This program should carry us throughout this season. And we hope you will like it!

IN: What are your plans for this season, both off and on the ice?

Péchalat: Besides skating, I am now done with my classes at the Academia of Finance in Moscow, and I just need to write my thesis to complete my studies at the School of Management of Lyon, in France. I should start this after the main competitions are over. I would hope I can graduate from both schools at the end. Also, with Fabian, we would like to get our state license to teach skating in France. Not for teaching, actually, but to be able to train everywhere without a coach if we need to. French rules do not allow us to train if we do not have a real coach with us, so we will become two!

Bourzat: On the ice, our challenge will be to win the European title as soon as possible, and medal at worlds. Every year until the Olympics!

Péchalat and Bourzat should learn even more about their prospects after competing in their first Grand Prix assignment at the Cup of China.