BY GRACIE GOLD
I returned from World Team Trophy on Monday, April 15, and literally left the next day for Canton, Mich., to begin choreographing my new programs! Marina Zoueva and Oleg Epstein are choreographing both of my programs this year. I started working with Marina last season for help with my artistry, and Oleg has coached me for years. Scott Brown continues to be an important part of my team, traveling to Chicago each month to work with me and my primary coach, Alex Ouriashev.
I will be skating to Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” for my free skate. Marina suggested it earlier in the year. I’d been listening to it and identifying the parts I really liked. Oleg actually “rough cut” the music while I was skating. We played with a lot of different pieces, customizing it as we went through each section, to really make it fit my elements. I am so happy with the result! It’s gorgeous music, of course, but also very powerful, which suits me. The step sequence is wonderful; in fact, it’s my favorite part! I feel really good about the program. It’s quite challenging (as it should be in July), but I think the finished product will be terrific! My elements are essentially the same as last year, but Alex and I have changed the layout to maximize the second half bonus. And, for an additional bonus, I get to wear pink!
My short program music was more of a happy accident. There were so many suggestions for my music this year (thanks to everyone for the input)! We considered and reconsidered each suggestion, but nothing seemed exactly right. It was during that trip in May that we settled on the music for my short. It is a piece that Marina has liked for years, but hadn’t found the right skater to match it with. After setting my long program, she and Oleg played various selections of music and watched how I moved with each piece. Drumroll… We are using music from “Three Preludes” by Gershwin! I was completely unfamiliar with this music. Gershwin composed it in 1926 and it has a jazzy feel to it. Although I felt hesitant about it in the beginning, the more we played with it, the “righter” it felt to me. The program sort of “took on a life of its own” and carried us along with it. I absolutely love it! The choreography is amazing. It’s sensual and playful at the same time. I feel a bit “cat-like” while I’m performing it. Marina has had me working with an array of top notch dance instructors on my visits. Their areas of expertise range from classical ballet to modern dance. This program definitely has a modern dance flavor.
I also have a THIRD new program this year! A few months ago, Scott Brown organized a choreography session with the wonderful Cindy Stuart. I will be performing to “All That Jazz” from the movie “Chicago.” It is such a fun and sassy number, and I absolutely love skating to it! Later this month, I will be traveling to Japan to perform in Mao Asada’s show, “The Ice.” I am so excited! They asked that I have two numbers prepared, so I will also be performing to “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys.
Last season was very successful for me, so Alex and I don’t want to make very many changes from what we did last year. I travel up to Canton each month, for a few days at a time, and work with that team. Another benefit from my Canton trips is the inspiration I get from skating with some of the best skaters in the world! I have so much admiration and respect for them. They are kind and supportive of me, which is a big confidence booster. In addition, Canton is home to some of the funniest people in the skating world! E.E. Cummings said, “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” So, there are no wasted days in Canton.
Summer has finally come to Chicago! It was a really cold and rainy spring, resulting in a lot of flooding. Hopefully that is behind us. My schedule here is basically the same as last year, but it’s been harder to make it home to Springfield. I did get down for an extended Memorial Day weekend celebration. The weather wasn’t cooperative, but we swam and grilled outside, in spite of the drizzle! My dad has been making trips up here this year and we’ve been discovering more about the city. I love the energy!
I split my training between two rinks in the Northwest suburbs: Center Ice of Dupage in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and Glacier Ice Arena in Vernon Hills, Ill. I have a lot of support and good friends at both rinks. Besides working with Alex each day, I have ballet lessons with Svetlana Kapela three times a week. She is originally from Russia and a wonderful person. She has become a very good friend to our family. I also take a pole harness lesson once a week with Oleg Podvalny. I am currently working on the triple axel and the quad Salchow. They are both coming along! I don’t plan to put them in a program any time soon, but it is my goal to be successful with them in the future. I definitely believe they are possible for me!
Alex has a specialty off-ice class he offers three times a week. I usually do two of those classes each week. In addition to those classes, I’ve recently begun working with a new trainer, Aaron Mannheimer. He recently opened a beautiful gym down in the city. It is so cool! The gym is in a renovated warehouse. The walls are beautiful old brick. It’s filled with light and state-of-the-art equipment. Aaron really knows his stuff and is helping me take my fitness up a notch. I work with another trainer, Sheila, at the Pavilion, which is a wonderful facility very close to our house in Elk Grove Village. I add hot yoga and a massage whenever possible. My goal is to be in my absolute top shape going into this very important year!
All of the senior Grand Prix skaters will gather together in Colorado Springs for Champs Camp in August. Last year was my first time there, and it was a blast! This year it begins two days after my 18th birthday! I’m really looking forward to both events and the start of a great season!