Kamila Valieva’s interview for Russian ballet magazine La Personne

Kamila Valieva (Photo by Alisa Aslanova)

On March 8, in honor of International Women’s Day, Russian ballet magazine La Personne published an interview with 14-year-old figure skater Kamila Valieva.

The 2020 World Junior champion posed for numerous photos and sat down for an interview with editor-in-chief of the publication Alisa Aslanova to talk about the impact ballet has on her skating, about music and art, and her personal life.

Interview translated to English:

The miracle girl of modern figure skating, a ballerina on ice, a work of art –  all of this is about our heroine – figure skater Kamila Valieva.  Her programs amaze and inspire, behind her there are already many victories but, at the same time. Kamila herself is unusually modest, sincere, and incredibly beautiful, both externally and internally. We think you will feel it too, between the lines in the interview. We decided that March 8th was a great occasion to publish a special issue of “La Personne Inspiration” with Kamila – the embodiment of femininity and inner strength.

What impact does ballet have on your skating? We know that you were at the preparatory department at the Moscow State Academy of Choreography. Could you tell us more about your memories when you studied at the Ballet Academy, and how ballet influenced your physics and the nature of data.

Ballet or choreography has always been present in my life because it is one of the components of figure skating training. At the preparatory department at the Moscow State Academy of Arts, I wanted to try myself next to girls who dream of becoming ballerinas, to see the educational process at the Academy from the inside, to work out with ballet teachers. I have very pleasant memories of these lessons. The teacher in our group was Tochilina Violetta Viktorovna. The first six months we did parterre gymnastics, I remember how all my muscles ached after these classes! But on the ice many things became much easier for me to do.

Ballet is a profession in which a lot is determined by nature. Ballerinas should have long limbs, a small volume of muscles, narrow shoulders, a long neck, a small head, a pronounced arch of the foot, correct shape of the legs, eversion, step, ability to rotate, flexibility, jump. Also, ballerinas need to have rhythm, musicality, dance. But in figure skating, all this is just as necessary. Therefore, choreography is very important for skaters.

As a result, I realized that ballet is just as hard, sometimes exhausting work, like figure skating. But in figure skating, after a year of training, you can go out on the ice and take part in competitions, and in ballet, the path to the stage is much longer.

You have a very ballet texture, performance aesthetics of ballet are also very much classic inserts in the program (for example, arabesques). Is this emphasized by the choreographer and you, or is it already manifested in a natural way?

The ballerina’s texture appears probably because I have ballet data. And the aesthetics of performance is, rather, from the director of the program, from the choreographer, from Eteri Georgievna. It is they who help to make the right accents, they also know better from the outside how this or that movement should look. I hope that over time I will learn to make accents naturally. But when you repeat the same thing day after day, the learned movements gradually become your essence, you begin to feel them.

Everything about your short program this season is musical to the smallest degree. All accents are in notes. How do you and your coaches achieve this kind of filigree? Tell us about Eteri Tutberidze’s attitude to nuances and details. Because it seems that everything has been worked out with the installation, that there are no passing movements and each movement must be performed meaningfully and with emotion.

About the short program, you quite correctly noticed that everything is worked out with the installation that there are no passing movements because birds do not flap their wings randomly. So for us as well – every movement must be performed meaningfully, emotionally, and musically. 

To achieve this, you need to repeat and repeat the program every day. And also… We need a coach like Eteri Georgievna. She does not calm down even when the program is invented, ready and skated. It is as if she skates this program with me every workout, she knows every turn of her head, every wave of her hand, it seems to me that she even knows how I breathe in the program, what I feel when performing this or that element. And I am no longer me. I am her. Eteri Georgievna feels and understands every program and helps me understand, accept, feel every movement. She constantly finds what else can be improved, what else to make a movement and how to more fully achieve the image.

Do you remember your first impressions of Ravel’s Bolero music? This is a specific composition, did you immediately accept and understand it?

When I first heard the piece Bolero, I thought: “How can you skate to it?” I didn’t understand what this music was about. The composition is rather monotonous, the rhythm with the help of the drum is repeated dozens of times and without changing. It is only the orchestration and the increasing tempo that makes this music original. The trainers explained to me that I would play a snake.

Some people think Bolero may be a little early for you. How do you see yourself in this piece?

If I had been staged Bolero in the traditional version, then one could say that it is too early for me to perform the program to this piece. But they came up with an image for this music, which at my age I can convey. I believe in the choice of my coaches! I believe that they will help me cope with this program.

You often have classical and neoclassical music in your programs. How close is this music to you? And if you described your inner world in a piece of music – what composition would you choose?

It is classical and neoclassical music that is very close to me, and it is not for nothing that Eteri Georgievna and Daniil Markovich offer me just such music for programs.

If I had to choose one composition to describe my inner world, then I would hardly be able to do it. After all, different music is always born inside. It depends on the mood, on the people around, on the pictures of nature in front of your eyes, on the feeling of joy, sadness, sadness or absolute happiness, on the silence outside the window, from the moon in the night sky, from a rainbow, from falling snowflakes or raindrops, from the aroma of coffee, from the smile of Eteri Georgievna, from the jokes of Daniil Markovich, from the voice of Sergei Viktorovich, from the applause of the audience, from the sinking of the heart before going to the start, from the creak of ice under the blade of the skate… It is always different emotions and different music in the soul.

What place does art take in your life? After all, when performances are inspired by the works of classics, such as Ravel’s Bolero or Picasso’s painting, you need to delve into these works. Your approach to this is interesting. Take, for example, Girl on a Ball – have you studied the history of the work, what it is about and what thought is in it, so that you can then convey this in your performance? An interesting approach to the emotional creation of your programs.

Once I read a quote by Michelangelo Buonarroti: “Art is jealous: it demands that the person surrendered to him entirely.” So far, I am completely devoted to figure skating.

But art occupies a huge place in the life of Daniil Markovich and Eteri Georgievna, they are inspired by music, paintings, performances, films when creating programs. I am not yet involved in the process of choosing the music or the plot, I can only say whether I like the idea and the music or not.

And I am a co-author of them only as a performer. So that I can correctly convey what I have conceived, they tell me the idea of ​​the program, what thoughts and feelings I should convey with my skating. Of course, I read about Picasso’s painting Girl on a Ball, I watched it at the Pushkin Museum named after A. S. Pushkin.

The Girl on a Ball is a painting from the “Rose Period” of Picasso’s work because pink predominates in it. But the picture also shows echoes of the past “Blue Period” of creativity. Picasso used the blue color to show emptiness, poverty, hopelessness, sadness. The acrobat girl depicted in the picture is glad that she is getting a difficult trick, she is not yet able to understand how hard the life of a wandering circus artist is.

Eteri Georgievna and Daniil Markovich put a slightly different idea into the program. They probably did it given my age. They came up with a plot that was completely understandable to me.

This is a program about how a picture comes to life, a girl leaves the canvas and enters our world. This world is beautiful, it fascinates her, beckons but… she has to go back to the picture.

There was absolutely nothing pink in the color of the suit, blue-gray tones prevailed. This palette of colors helped to convey the transience of the time that the girl spent in a beautiful world, the fragility of her existence in it, injustice and the impossibility of being among us.

When you were preparing Bolero, who were you inspired by during the preparation, did you watch the production of Bejart or other choreographers?

Of course, the first thing I did was find and watch the skaters’ programs set to Bolero: Jayne Torvill / Christopher Dean; Tatiana Navka / Roman Kostomarov; Carolina Kostner; Elizaveta Tuktamysheva; Evgenia Tarasova / Vladimir Morozov.

Then there were ballet performances with the best dancers in the world: Maya Plisetskaya; Diana Vishneva; Sylvie Guillem.

All of them amaze with their energy and passion. Bejart said that Bolero is a story of desire.

But my free skate is completely different.

Do you remember that Elena Radionova had a program to the music from the film Anna Karenina? But she was not Anna in this program, she portrayed a leaf that the wind tore from a tree…

Evgenia Medvedeva said that you work very, very hard. Please tell us what do you like more – to train or to perform? And why. 

I think that Evgenia also worked a lot when preparing for serious and significant starts for her. It’s just that there are few people in our group who work. 

What do I like more: training or competition? I like both competitions and training.

Top 3 tips from Eteri Tutberidze, told to you, which you will remember for the rest of your life? 

The words of Eteri Georgievna are very personal, they were said only to me and therefore I cannot make them available to everyone. I can only say one thing, going out on the ice at competitions, I know for sure that

1. she did her best to make me perform well;

2. she believes in me;

3. standing behind the boards, she worries about me. 

I feel the strength and confidence she sends me, and it helps me cope with the excitement and the elements. I always want to please her with my performance, to show that everything that has been invested in me is not in vain.

In your opinion, what is the phenomenon of Eteri Tutberidze’s tecahing? Why are her skaters performing at such a high level?

Everything is very simple: she fanatically loves figure skating, she is a very creative person, she sees exactly what music and what image will suit this or that athlete, she lives with the programs of all her athletes, she found like-minded coaches. And, of course, Eteri Georgievna knows how to always work: day and night, seven days per week, 12 months per year. I don’t know of any other coach who works so much!

In addition to coaches, the family is often behind the success of athletes. Tell us what influence your parents have had on you, how they support you today because this season you had great responsibility, and you are still very young.

Yes, you’re right, success should always be divided into three parts. One part of being successful is being an athlete. The second part is the work of the trainers. The third is parental support.

Figure skating starts very early, at the age of three or four. The child must be taken to training, first three times per week, then four times, and then six times per week. And this is not for a year or two. For example, I have been training for 12 years. Parents have no days off, no holidays, no vacation, that is, they practically need to give up their life.

And you also have to financially support your athlete because figure skating is not the cheapest sport.

My mother has always supported me from the very beginning, she is there in difficult times and in moments of joy and happiness.

Is there anything other than sports in the life of a professional athlete? I saw in the photograph at the Picasso painting you were standing with a camera. This is your hobby, do you photograph? 

In the life of a professional athlete who is also studying, there is simply no time for anything other than sports and studies.

Of course, I would like to professionally learn how to photograph, dance modern dances of different styles, go to theaters, museums, exhibitions, travel a lot, learn foreign languages, read books, perhaps draw or ride a motorcycle. But… all this and much more – later. Now only figure skating. And studying at school.

And lastly, with what attitude are you looking ahead today?

I look ahead with the belief that everything I need will come to me at the right day and hour.

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