Before the show I had an opportunity to talk to “Art on Ice” headliner Stéphane Lambiel who shared his thoughts about what makes “Stockholm Ice” special for him, how his programs are created, the music, his fans and how he feels about the audience.
“Stockholm Ice” has become a tradition in Sweden. You have participated in many shows this year, is this show special in any way? How does it feel to perform in Stockholm?
Two last years it was my birthday on the show and it was special for me to come here the two last years in my birthday. This year it is Easter, the show is taking place a little bit later than in the last two years but it’s still the period of the year I have my birthday in.
It’s an opportunity here to meet some skaters, talk about the new season and what they are planning. The feedback of what happened this year and what are the plans for next year always happen during the month of April. I have lot of work to do, a lot of shows but also some choreographies. There is a very good spirit between us, good energy. The Globe Arena is very beautiful, there’s something very elegant here. This year we have two opera singers, they have great voices. Opera is music made for skating, it flows and is perfect for the movements on the ice. I feel that it is gonna be a great show here in Stockholm with these great singers and with the cast that we have. It’s also great to have Evan Lysacek here.
You were talking about the new season and about other skaters’ plans. Do you have any new programs ready for your upcoming shows?
In May at Yu-Na Kim’s “All That Skate” show in Korea I will hopefully skate not a new but adjusted version of “My Body is a Cage” (one of Lambiel’s latest gala exhibitions for “Art on Ice”). That’s gonna be the highlight of my numbers. And then of course I’m getting ready for the next shows and you will see it on time, another piece, something new. I will definitely do a number by Tchaikovsky’s music, it will be part of my repertoire for this summer and for the next season. So there will be a few new numbers to watch.
“My Body is a Cage”is a very deep, serious and even painful song. Why did you choose such a serious subject?
It could be a painful subject but at the same time it is like everyone’s life. Right now we are running after time. We are running after work, we are running after money, we are running after everything. Seconds go by and we are running all the time. And it can go in that direction, but at the same time I just feel skating is the freedom, it’s my freedom. When I’m on the ice I don’t know anything about the world, I don’t know what’s happening. I’m just free, I’m free to do what I love. That’s the main thing about this program. The cage is broken, I just skate, I’m just there, I’m freeing myself. So you can take both options. I don’t want to push the audience to go in one direction or the other. It’s just the option of the crowd to take it the way they want. For me it’s a great song, I listened it for the first time with Peter Gabriel’s voice and I really loved the interpretation he had. That’s why I asked Oliver Höner (the founder and director of “Art on Ice”) if it would be possible to do it live for “Art on Ice”. If not, I will use the Peter Gabriel song. He said well, we will figure it out. Then the great singer Rhonda Dorsey came and I was falling in love with the version she was singing. It was very powerful, it was probably even more… it was warmer, more round, it suited the skating more than the Peter Gabriel song. Right now we are working on having a recorded version of that for the shows. That’s why I am not skating it yet in the shows, because it is not ready. And I have to adjust it for a simpler show. In “Art on Ice” we have a bigger production with lights and stage and I need to rework it. I didn’t have time yet to work with my choreographer Salome Brunner on the new version, but after this show we will work together.
Your skating costumes are a major part of your programs and always have their own meanings. What image does the costume for “My Body is a Cage” evoke? What type of costume do you use in your other new program “Something got me started”?
I wanted something strong for “My Body is a Cage”. I love dark colours, definitely, and I prefer to work more with the material than the colours. That’s why I wanted to have leather because I never wore leather for a program. And I wanted to show my skin so we decided to have some holes too that people can see… When I’m free on the ice you can see through me even if I have clothes on. Then there are those wires on the costume which are not connected. It is like – I went off the connection in this world. So that was the kind of image. We can’t really see the wires but for me it’s important to have them to have the feeling.
And the other costume – I wanted to have a Versace mixing the zebra costume in one shirt. That’s why I asked the lady who made the shirt to find a scarf reminding this Barocco style of Versace and to make out of that scarf a shirt and then to mix some white and black lines.
When you choose a song for your program, do you choose based on music or lyrics?
Usually based on both. First, I like to listen to the music and to see myself skate and then when I decide to skate one music – of course, I listen to the words but then I kind of make more research about the words to be able to do the choreography. At first I really have to feel something, understand, there is a connection between the music and me. And then, when I go on the ice I put a lot of music on, and I try to understand what direction I want to go, if I want something very dramatic or lyrical or something more strict and sophisticated, something stronger. It depends…
What kind of music has particularly inspired you lately?
I was listening to a great pianist, she is Chinese, Yuja Wang, she was playing Mozart. She was completely crazy with the notes, playing unbelievably and then I was listening to many pieces she has played. She is very inspiring.
It is great to know that you like classical music. Do you like to visit classical music concerts?
Yes, I love! I love to feel the orchestra, I love to feel the energy coming from so many musicians and I love the harmony that they have together. It’s so beautiful. Unfortunately I don’t always have so much time but right now I really want to go to a Yuja Wang concert, I have it in my mind and I will do it for sure. If I would have more time I would do more things. I would go more to ballet, more to dance classes, I would go to more concerts.
What do you think about the composer Arvo Pärt?
I love him!
How did you find out about him?
It was with some dance performance from Jiři Kylián. He used Pärt’s music for his performances and that’s when I first listened to him and fell in love with this music. I have it in my iPod and sometimes when I’m on a plane my imagination just goes… I would love to skate to Arvo Pärt, really. Maybe one day I would do it because he is a great, great composer. Probably one of my favourites. But to skate to this music is difficult. If you have a contemporary show you can use a long piece and you can go a lot of ways but if you have five minutes and want to do something from Arvo Pärt in five minutes it’s hard to get into because it’s deeper than five minutes.
You mentioned Jiři Kylián, I remember that you spoke about him in some of your previous interviews. Is he an inspiration for you? Could some of his ideas be used for figure skating?
He is my favourite. I love the way he uses the body. My dream would be to work with him. But I don’t think it’s gonna be possible. Lets see, lets see… It would be great if I one day can work with someone like him.
Watching Carolina Kostner’s long program this season, were there any elements inspired by Kylián?
Yes, I think so. She probably was very inspired by Kylián’s Mozart 23th Piano concerto. She used the music and did great choreography with that music, she probably got inspiration off it.
Top skaters are always surrounded by fans. You have a large international fan base. What do fans mean to you and how do you feel about them?
How could I survive without their reaction to my work! It would be impossible without them. Fans are sharing my experience on the ice. They know my history and they want to know what’s gonna happen next. I think it’s important that I keep them entertained, it’s my role to entertain my fans and at the same time it is not just a facade. I think, they like the person, not only what I show them on the ice. That’s why I like to share the time with them, I like to know them. I can’t know everyone of course but I can already feel the spirit of love that they bring. I feel so much love from them that I get more and more motivated to go on and bring more new stuff and entertain, as I said. It is like change, you know.
An interaction between you and your audience…
Yes. I bring something and they bring me something back and that makes it change continuously.
Your fans travel from around the world to see you skate.
It’s unbelievable! And I can understand, I mean, I flew to London to see Britney Spears. Actually it’s a great feeling and I loved the excitement. I already have that feeling when I board the plane and go and wait until it’s gonna happen. Then she is on the stage, the excitement goes up. For her, she doesn’t know anything about that but you go for it, you just feel something big and you are closer and closer to the situation that you dreamed about.
But I will never meet her and I will never be able to take a picture with her.
Why not? It would be possible for you to meet her.
Because I would not push myself so hard.
Do you think the crowd always understands you? Do you ever feel that the crowd cannot understand what you’re trying to show them, as it is too complicated?
Sometimes some crowds don’t understand. There are some people who really like to go to the opera and know the complete story and details of what is happening. And there are people who go to the opera and just like to sit and watch even if they don’t know all the details and enjoy. I can be both. Sometimes I just go and take what I see but sometimes I want to understand more, to learn more about what I am watching. Sometimes it is good to watch a movie and even if you don’t remember it, if you have a good time in the present, it’s fine. And sometimes you go and watch something many years later you still have something inside that stays. You really want to understand, why. You do more research and try to understand. I just want people to know about skating and to know about this beautiful sport. Maybe it looks very easy but it’s not easy, it’s hard work, a lot of hours to make what we are doing on the ice.
Have you ever felt that there is a complete understanding between yourself and the crowd, as if you and the crowd were one?
About this moment I can tell you it’s when…I finish the program and the applause don’t come immediately. There is a reaction – the crowd has to come out of the program to have a reaction. And in that moment you understand: they got it. Because they had to come to earth again and after that they can react with applause. Then you understand: they were with me and I feel their energy.
Can you usually tell what the crowd is feeling and does the feeling differ from time to time?
Yes. I just came from Bucharest, I had two shows there and they were very different. Both very strong, but different. Because all the constellations make them different. In the afternoon, light from the day makes a certain atmosphere. At night it was darker, every time it makes a different energy. Like in Verona for “Opera on Ice” the energy was so special because you feel – the building has a spirit. So much history happened there. The sensitive people that we are, we feel the energy of the crowd.
Before this show, you had a short stay at Nice, where you were watching the World Championships. What kind of impressions did you get from there?
I loved ice-dance, it’s probably my favourite discipline because it’s very precise. I feel the control of the feet, of the movement when I watch this. I watched pairs skating of course, Tanya (Volosozhar) and Maxim (Trankov) are my friends. In the men’s event I was very impressed by the level. It was a great competition compared to the past few years, strongest competition. And the girls – happy for Carolina, not so impressed with the general. Very happy that Carolina was consistent, great programs, great choreography, the most beautiful skater. General impression of Worlds was very positive for me. I’m excited about the next season, I’m excited about the Olympics, I want to know what’s gonna happen. It’s interesting for me to see the development that will come in the next two years.
Will you do any more choreography for skaters this season?
Yes, I will do choreography for some skaters. You will have news soon.
Will you have any non-skating projects coming like the La Revue recently in Switzerland?
The ideas are there, it’s just a question of taking time to make them happen. But there are projects. Few ideas, one idea is very clear I just have to take time to it. I am not rushing because my priority is skating right now. My life will be long and I hope I can develop my projects and make them happen.
Are you planning to make a comeback like some other skaters?
No, that’s not one of my projects, no. I have many other projects I can put my heart into. I will put my heart into the skaters I am working with. But I will not compete any more, that’s for sure.
Text: IA REMMEL
Photos: NATASHA PONARINA, IA REMMEL