Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje: “If something is easy at the beginning of the season, then it’s something you’ve done before, or it’s not hard enough”

You’ll love this interview, we’re sure. If you’re Kaitlyn and Andrew’s fans, you’ll like them even more; and if you’re not, well, we’ll talk at the end of this heart-warming discussion, that took place after the skaters’ banquet in Moscow, on November 22. The Canadians won in Russia their second Grand Prix event of the season – and, doing so, they’re the only ice dance team with two gold medals qualified for the Final in Barcelona. This particular interview goes through a varieties of topics, from the change of their short dance to their “work, work, work” with choreographer Peter Tchernyshev for the free dance; and from their love of Russian culture to their plans outside skating (if any). A very open and sincere conversation, funny and serious at the same time, with music and laughter in the background – the skaters’ banquet was about to come to an end. As for Kaitlyn and Andrew, gorgeously dressed up – beautiful red dress and suit with a tie –, they spent most of their time signing autographs, taking pictures and talking to their fans. Because with them, what you see is what you get.

Interview by Veronika Potaturko/Moscow

Veronika Potaturko: My first question is about your short dance – you won Finlandia Trophy with an Elvis-themed one and then, at Skate Canada, your first Grand Prix event, you performed a new one, to music by Strauss. How was this change made?

Kaitlyn Weaver: We decided very quickly about our new short dance. We came home from Finlandia Trophy, and the day we came home we met with our coach, Pasquale Camerlengo, and he said he needed to tell us about some feedback for the short dance, which was originally set to Elvis Presley. And he said we needed to change something, or change everything, and we went through so many different options, knowing that we didn’t have any time to spare: there were two weeks until Skate Canada.

And although we loved so much the theme of Elvis, we decided that it would be best to pay tribute to these rhythms, Waltz and Polka, with a very classical style. Actually, in the beginning, in the early summer, it had been tough for us to choose between this music [the classical one] and Elvis – and we decided then to go with something a little bit more unusual. But [when the change was decided – Ed.] it was an easy switch in terms of the idea, like: Ok, this is what we’re going to do, and we started planning Strauss. We just turned our computer and said:Let’s just start something new.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje looking like royalties at the beginning of their Strauss short dance in Moscow, at 2015 Rostelecom Cup

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje looking like royalties at the beginning of their Strauss short dance in Moscow, at 2015 Rostelecom Cup

And I think that it suits us better, I think that it definitely fits the rules better, and that’s very important in the short dance. But it was stressful, because we wanted to make sure that we could make the program look mature and… practiced [she smiles], even though we had such a short amount of time. But we are very familiar with this feeling of stress and pressure, and we just work together and we were very efficient and we made it happen at Skate Canada. And we were very relieved when it went well.

Maybe you’ll keep the Elvis short dance as an exhibition program…

Andrew Poje: Well, we definitely love that program, we had so much fun performing it. Even if we got to do it once, we definitely look forward to trying to do something with it in the future, whether it will be another short dance or a show program or something. We love that music and we hope not to put it to rest already, because we feel like we really enjoyed it.

Kaitlyn: Right, next year the rhythm is blues, and so it’s very easy to find blues from Elvis. And it would be very easy choice for us to go back to that, so it will be interesting next season to decide whether or not to go [in that direction]. I think our first choice is to do an Elvis Christmas program, just to keep the program alive, because we love it so much and we’ll be performing that in Japan, in December. But we love it, like Andrew said, and we hope to continue the performance of it in another form, somewhere.

That’s a great piece of news, actually, not giving up on the Elvis theme. But what is the story of your free dance for this season?

Kaitlyn: The free has been under a lot of development through the beginning. Peter Tchernyshev created this music [chose the musical pieces and put them together – Ed.] and choreography, and it was our job to put our soul into this and decide what story we wanted to tell.

And it changed a little bit, here and there, through certain feedbacks, certain performances, but really what it’s about is a couple that goes through a great loss, something very sad; and that’s something everyone can relate to. And it’s how you’re able to help each other through this, and rely on each other, and in the end find hope – and it’s that person that keeps you alive, in a way, keeps the hope inside of you. And “Bitter Earth”, which is the name of our first piece of music, speaks of that, of hoping that someone will help you through. And I think that we relate to that and, hopefully, we’re able to really send that message to the audience too.

Kaitlyn Weaver Andrew Poje FS 2015 Rostelecom Cup (2)

Kaitlyn and Andrew performing their free dance in Moscow, at 2015 Rostelecom Cup

Kaitlyn and Andrew performing their free dance in Moscow, at 2015 Rostelecom Cup

Did you like to work with Peter Tchernyshev? What did he bring to your program, to your style maybe?

Andrew: We loved working with Peter. He pushed us in ways that we’ve never skated, he wanted us to find a new level of our skating. And that’s one thing that we always look forward to, try new things, try to push ourselves and experience new things… And he definitely brought that. And it was also interesting because one of the reasons why we thought about using Peter was because he’s tall too. And having that presence, he understood how I would feel on the ice, the movements were different…

Kaitlyn: …they’re more suited to his stature, versus Pasquale, who’s much smaller. So is a different way of working, and that was very new to us.

Andrew: Yes, exactly so. We definitely enjoyed that experience and want to redo it, and we definitely look forward to growing the free dance.

Kaitlyn: He worked us very hard [she laughs]. But, as Andrew said in the press conference yesterday, if something is easy at the beginning of the season, then it’s something you’ve done before, or it’s not hard enough. And Peter gave us something we thought: For sure we can’t do [she laughs again]. Like: I don’t know if we can do this, Peter. We can’t do this. And we were looking at each other like: How is this going to work? But, we worked, we worked, we worked, and we were able to make it into something that we feel very proud of. That we brought a new style, a little bit new way of movement to our skating, and I think that’s something that we’re very happy about.

Have you talked to Peter Tchernyshev after performing your free dance in competition this season? What did he say?

Kaitlyn: We saw him before the free dance here, in Moscow – the first time we’ve seen him since he choreographed the program; and he said: Guys, I’m so proud of you. You kept so much of our choreography, and I loved the program in Skate Canada, and you’re so positive and proud… And we were soooo excited [you can feel that in her voice, actually], because that’s the best compliment, from the choreographer. You know, audience of course matters, the judges matter, but the choreographer sees the vision, and if you can make them happy, that’s the most important. And for us the fact that he was happy and pleased with the progress is a great thing and we’re very happy about that.

So you have three pieces of music in your free dance. Peter Tchernyshev chose them all?

Kaitlyn: Peter chose everything. The other songs too, “Walk” and “Run”, by Ludovico Einaudi. “[In a] Time Lapse” is such a beautiful album, we listened to the whole thing and we were like: Can we skate to everything? We’ve never heard it before. But, actually, we had to add the lyrics of this “Bitter Earth” after – that was a comment from our feedback, that we needed to make it on lyrics. And now I feel that we have the perfect package – but he put it all together for us and thought about it all, and he’s so brilliant, really.

Is there a style of dance that you like more than others? More classical, more modern, both…?

Andrew: I don’t know, I enjoy being able to do many different styles. And if I had to choose one, I wouldn’t be able to, because I love everything from modern style dances to classical, waltzes and tangos and things like that.

Kaitlyn: I think that it’s like different sides of your personality. You know, sometimes you like going out at nights, sometimes you like staying in and watching a movie. For us, it’s sometimes you like moving in a very modern style, but it’s also good to do other things. We love to skate, we love to perform, and so we have different sides that we like also, not just one. And that’s maybe something more unique to us, we like to try everything. Some people stay in a more particular genre of dance – but [with us] it depends on our mood: sometimes we like one or the other.

Kaitlyn and Andrew's exhibition program this season is set to "Kissing You" by Des'ree (choreo. by by Shae-Lynn Bourne)

Kaitlyn and Andrew’s exhibition program this season is set to “Kissing You” by Des’ree (choreo. by by Shae-Lynn Bourne)

You are now Canada’s number one ice dance couple – do you feel more responsibility now than you used to?

Andrew: Yes, I think we do. We know that Canada has such a great heritage, such a great past of ice dancers, and to follow up all those people we feel honored – but we also feel the pressure, we want to make our country proud, make our friends and family proud.

But, you know, we’ve been like that since the very beginning. Even when we weren’t the first team, we wanted to make sure we showed the best we could, so that everyone would be proud of us. And we feel like we’ve made good steps towards doing that.

You qualified for the fifth Grand Prix Final of your career. How will you prepare for the competition on Barcelona, in December?

Kaitlyn: Oh, that’s Anjelika and Pasquale’s job [laughing]. We will do whatever they say, I don’t know what that is yet. We haven’t had our feedback session, to understand if we need to switch anything, change, make small details… I think today was about relax your brain a little bit; tomorrow maybe we’ll get the information and what we’re going to do for the next two weeks.

It could be nothing, it could be a lot of things, we don’t know what to expect anymore because we had to change our program [they both laugh]… I hopefully think it won’t be too much, but they create the master plan for us and we just follow. And so we owe them everything to make sure that we’re in the right place at the right time.

The Canadians sure were in the right place at the right time in Moscow at this year's edition of Rostelecom Cup: they won the gold medal and qualified for the fifth Grand Prix Final of their career. The silver was won in Moscow by Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (left) and the bronze by Russia's Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (right)

The Canadians sure were in the right place at the right time in Moscow at this year’s edition of Rostelecom Cup: they won the gold medal and qualified for the fifth Grand Prix Final of their career. The silver was won in Moscow by Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (left) and the bronze by Russia’s Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (right)

You’ve been in Russia for several times now… Do you enjoy the Russian culture, the language, the Russian fans, maybe?

Kaitlyn: Yes, of course. I actually grew up admiring the Russian skaters. I remember watching the 1998 Olympics, with Ilia Kulik and Irina Slutskaya, both who are great friends of ours now, and just loving the Russian skating. And so when I grew up with the dancers, Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov, the Ukrainians, and many other teams like that, I thought: I want to be just like them. In the skating, in their language… [she smiles]. And so that’s when I started learning a little bit, but then when we worked with Anjelika, she speaks so much to us in Russian, and Natalia Anenko too, and we often go to a Russian restaurant in Detroit, and we eat pelmeni and blini, and it’s fun for us.

Actually, one of our fondest memories is of the World Championships here, in Moscow, in 2011, when the city took the Worlds from Japan, who had the tragedy, and they put on a great event for the skaters. And that was one of our great moments, when we became noticed, I guess – and so we have a great fondness for this culture, and these people, and this audience. And I think we have a good fan base here, and it feels good to know that people appreciate you.

Now, does your character in sport differ from the one in real life?

Andrew: I wouldn’t know, I don’t think so…

Kaitlyn: I think so. I can speak for him, that in life is more shy, and more quiet, at least in a normal day to day. But on the ice, I think Andrew gets such a great confidence and personality. He’s more extroverted – and so you see different sides of the person from a day to day perspective versus a performance perspective. As for me, I don’t know…

Andrew: She’s a very driven person, she always wants to make sure that everything is getting better, but she enjoys that experience throughout the whole time. And off the ice, she kinda just lets things happen, she’ll work with whatever comes before her, and, you know, make a party out of anything. She won’t be dead set on having this plan. [Andrew knocks on a hard surface, trying to replicate Kaitlyn’s character on ice].

Kaitlyn laughs and then adds: I think when we’re on the ice we’re more structured, more serious…

Andrew: …and off the ice we’re like: I want to see this, ok, let’s do this, uuuuuuh! [Everyone laughs heartily]

The gold medalists of 2015 Rostelecom Cup, all happy and relaxed, at the end of the exhibition: Andrew Poje is the bull, with the horns and everything, while Spain's Javier Fernandez is the bullfighter (and has the costume too - traje de luces)

The gold medalists of 2015 Rostelecom Cup, all happy and relaxed, at the end of the exhibition: Andrew Poje is the bull, with the horns and everything, while Spain’s Javier Fernandez is the bullfighter (and has the costume too – traje de luces)

And what are your plans for the future, not for this season or the next ones, but maybe what do you want to do when you leave skating?

Andrew [smiling]: Nap a lot. [and he lays down on a sofa, as if he were sleeping…]

Kaitlyn: For me, I will never leave skating. I will always be some way connected, I don’t know yet if it’s with the ISU, I don’t know if it’s with the Canadian Olympic Committee, I don’t know if it’s in some ways teaching a little bit, but I have such a passion for this sport and I have always had, my whole life, so I don’t see myself breaking away from that, ever. It’s like who I am, you know, but I plan definitely on going to University, being in class, not just on the computer, and finding my way in that side of my life also. But, like he just said, I just kinda go and let the opportunities present themselves, and I’m not exactly sure where that’s going to take me.

Andrew: I always thought I would be going in the medical field, for dentistry and things like that… But, you know, the more I think about it, the more I want to make sure that I fulfill my passion with skating. And I don’t know how long that will last, if it will never die or… I don’t know. So, my future plan is really unknown right now, I’ll figure that out, I guess, when it comes. But I’m happy with where it is – and for the near future it’s skating, so that’s all I’m really living for right now.

Kaitlyn and Andrew, all elegant and sophisticated at the skaters' banquet in Moscow

Kaitlyn and Andrew, all elegant and sophisticated at the skaters’ banquet in Moscow

[Interview by Veronika Potaturko, Moscow/editing by Florentina Tone]

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