Creating programs: Marcotte talks choreography

Canadian choreographer explains processes, how she helped deliver Takahashi, Tran bronze

Julie Marcotte sits with with senior men's competitor Maxime-Billy Fortin at the 2012 Canadian Figure Skating Championships.
Julie Marcotte sits with with senior men's competitor Maxime-Billy Fortin at the 2012 Canadian Figure Skating Championships. (Melanie Hoyt)


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By Vladislav Luchianov, special to
(04/17/2012) - Figure skating choreographers aren't often seen on TV screens during skating events. They are rarely spoken of when skaters win medals with the programs made by them, and the media does not often often write about them.

Nevertheless, the creation of programs -- later admired by skating fans on the ice -- begins with ideas, which come from choreographers' minds, hearts and souls. Moreover, the process of creating a truly wonderful program does not end until the conclusion of the skating season. The inspiration of those professionals, as well as their creativity, reaches the skaters and coaches and then brings satisfactory results, medals and love from the skating audience.

Canadian choreographer Julie Marcotte is one of those masters. Her great work has been integral to the success of Japanese pairs skaters Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran, who became the first pairs team to win a world medal for their country at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships. She plays an equally important part in the results of Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who finished fifth in Nice. talked with Marcotte about her work and the specifics of her role. Julie, you've made programs for the 2012 world pairs bronze medalists Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran, as well as for Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who also performed very well in Nice, finishing fifth. What are your thoughts about their performances there?

Marcotte: I am beyond happy with both team's performances. They each had their own personal journey throughout the year, and I can say they both skated programs that were reflective of the hopes and goals. A choreographer's dream! Did you expect such success from the young Japanese team, which made pairs skating history for its country?

Marcotte: Narumi and Mervin have this amazing quality: They can create magic when they skate. From that, anything can happen, and it did. Tell us, please, about your work with them. How was it?

Marcotte: My work with them has been an ongoing process since their very beginning. It has become second nature between us. We understand each other and have unlimited faith. Words cannot really describe it.

I do call them my little candies. They are a blessing to work with. For this year, I was looking for a concept that would reflect the road they had traveled as a team and as human beings. They literally had to travel the world to be together, and the sacrifices they both had to do were grand. So the concept was: Anything is possible no matter what. So it hit me. "Imagine" -- it was the perfect song, the world coming as one! From there, it just came together and they managed to really pour their souls out there.

For the [free skate], it was kind of a suite to the short. I had them skate to "Concerto de Québec," composed by André Mathieu and played by Alain Lefevre, who made us discover this brilliant composer. I felt Québec was the place where they met and made it all come together. It just felt right since the day one. Sometimes it's difficult for young skaters to interpret fully the emotions and general sense of a serious program. How do you work on this issue with your skaters?

Marcotte: Interpretation, no matter the type of emotion, for me is all about being real, being it. So, I work with them on self acceptance so they become at ease to "just be." We tap into real emotions and translate them through movement. I call it "being emotionally naked!" The skating season is finished, but I think your season is just starting. How long does it take for the creation of a new program?

Marcotte: Creating new programs is a long process; it starts way before stepping on the ice. It is a vision, a flash that hits you! Once you are on the ice, it is all about making that vision come together. As far as Takahashi and Tran, and Duhamel and Radford, they come and see me twice a week most of the year. We work on details, skating skills, make adjustments, etc. It is an ongoing process until they hit their final position of their skating season. Which performances at worlds did you like as a choreographer and why?

Marcotte: There were so many incredible performances. [Tessa] Virtue and [Scott] Moir's free dance is magic in subtleties. Patrick Chan's is the beauty and perfection of his skating, and his musicality is breathtaking. Daisuke Takahashi: His commitment and translation of emotions when he skates is just, wow! And many more! It's no secret that the present judging system very often becomes a real headache for choreographers. How do you manage all those rules with your creative ideas?

Marcotte: I think the criterias were done by knowledgeable people. They are what makes a good and complete program. I feel no restrictions with it; it is just clearer for everybody on what it takes for a complete program. Which points do you like in present skating and which do you not?

Marcotte: I love the direction, obviously, because of the importance of the second mark. You can't win with it, but you'll never win without it! What I don't like, it's not enough to discuss it. What is your vision of the future of choreography in figure skating?

Marcotte: My vision of the future is that it will just keep evolving. The young skaters are now educated with this approach from their very start. I believe we will see more and more great skaters that are truly connected with the performance and quality. Julie, could you tell us about your coming plans and if you intend to work with some new skaters?

Marcotte: No scoops on the future. I'm just trying to make a difference in the skater's career no matter who they are.