Brian Joubert: “Why do we have to put limits on the spins, the footwork?”

Tired as he was, during his “Snow King 2” marathon in Moscow and at the end of a masterclass with the main cast of the show, on December 27, Brian Joubert took the time in answering to some of Inside Skating’s questions – and he even attacked serious topics, such as the things to be corrected in the judging system: the level of the spins, the footwork, but, mostly, the way the Program Components are scored.
Of course, being on the other side of the boards for some time now helped Brian to get that particular understanding – his mindset is now of a coach in the making – but the 31-year-old from Poitiers hasn’t completely made the switch, still performing in galas and shows all around the world. With his skates on during this discussion, Brian says he really appreciates “Snow King” – “the quality of the show is really good, the costumes, music, decorations, everything”, not to mention he thoroughly enjoys the time spent with his former opponents: Evgeni Plushenko, Tomas Verner, Johnny Weir. As for coaching, he’ll take any good opportunity it might come his way.

Interview by Nadia Vasilyeva

Nadia Vasilyeva: This is your fourth visit in Russia for the “Snow King”, if I recall correctly: two times in St. Petersburg and two times in Moscow. How does it feel to come back in the show? Is it, in a way, like coming back home?

Brian Joubert: You know, on the first year it was a little bit difficult because I didn’t know the team, but now, on the second year, it’s like family. We know each other, we have a good time together. And yes, it is like coming back to my home to see my friends, and I really enjoy it.

[The ice show “Snow King 2” is based on the fairy tale “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s a sequel to the “Snow King” show that took place in Moscow and Saint Petersburg at the beginning of 2015, with the same story line and cast and slight changes and additions.]

A joyful, enthusiastic Brian Joubert at the end of "Snow King 2"

A joyful, enthusiastic Brian Joubert at the end of “Snow King 2”

Do you actually have any free time to walk around Moscow, or is it just rehearsal-rehearsal-rehearsal?
No, it’s just rehearsal. We wake up, we go on the ice, rehearsal, practice, shows, and then we go back to the hotel to sleep – that’s all.

This time you’re also going to spend New Year in Moscow. Is it difficult for you to be here, and not home, when we’re entering 2016?
No, it’s gonna be good. Because, usually, when I am at home, I do nothing for New Year. I just have dinner and go to sleep, like on a normal day. So it’s gonna be different for me now, and very cool, I think.

So you’re going to celebrate altogether with the “Snow King” team?
Yes, it’s going be a lot of people, a lot of fun.

I’m curious about one thing: does it feel different to skate in this kind of theatrical shows, like “Snow King”, rather than in the usual shows?
Yes, it is different, but I really like it, because I think the quality of the show is really good, the costumes, music, decorations – everything. And I really like to take part in this kind of story, to do the Shaman, the Prince, to show different types of skating – all these are good for me.

[In the “Snow King 2”, Brian skates several parts: the Prince, the Shaman, an Ice Knight and a Fire Knight – as visible in the photos below, taken in St. Petersburg and Moscow towards the end of 2015.]

Brian Joubert as the Prince, alongside Katarina Gerboldt as the Princess (Moscow)

Brian Joubert as the Prince, alongside Katarina Gerboldt as the Princess (Moscow)

As the Shaman (St. Petersburg)

As the Shaman (St. Petersburg)

Brian Joubert, the Ice Knight (Moscow)

Brian Joubert, the Ice Knight (Moscow)

There have been a lot of different shows in your life recently: before coming to Moscow, you’ve been to Japan and other galas all over the world. And you still have to combine this with coaching… How do you find time for everything?
When I come back home, in France, I coach. But I don’t have time to rest, that’s true. So physically it is very difficult, and I start being very tired. After this show, for instance, I have to do the “Dancing with the Stars” tour, so, you know… But I’m young and I enjoy it. I think it’s a great chance for me, I’m very lucky to take part in this kind of shows, in Japan, Russia, France…

And back home you coach kids, right?

Earlier in the season you were working with Romain Ponsart, but, at a certain point, you stopped working together…
Yes, because he wanted to come back to Paris, and I didn’t want to go there, so I said No and we stopped. [Brian’s training base is in Poitiers, France.]

Is this something you want to come back to, coaching adults, or do you only want to work with kids?
No, if I can coach a teenager or a senior skater, I would do it.

But you don’t have any plans for new students, like well-known students…?
I don’t know. I know that Denis Ten came to Poitiers to work at my ice rink, and I tried to help him. But for the moment I don’t have any plans. I just do a lot of shows and enjoy life. If I have a good opportunity as a coach I will take it.

Now that you’re on the other side of the boards, do you have a new perspective on skating?
You know, the level of figure skating is getting so high, especially technically. We can see a lot of quad jumps, two different ones in the short program, sometimes three or four in the free skate, and I think for the sport it’s amazing, it’s very good. But I don’t know [if my perspective on the discipline changed – Ed.]… I am on the other side of the boards, yes, but I’m still doing a lot of shows, so it’s difficult for me to have an opinion about figure skating now. I like to watch competitions sometimes. I will take some time later, to see if we can still improve the new judging system. Because I think there are still some mistakes [to be corrected – Ed.]

For instance?
I don’t know why we put limits on the spins, the footwork – when it comes to the level, I mean… Some skaters, they can do like level 5 or level 6. So it will be good for the audience to see that some skaters are really good at spins, for instance. But why do we have to put limits? That’s bad. And maybe add some combinations with four jumps, why not? And I think the main thing we have to change is the Components [Program Components Score – Ed.]. Because sometimes you can see that they are almost the same, like if you have 8 in Skating Skills you are going to have almost 8 in the Performance and Transitions. And it has to be different. You can have 9 in Performance and 3 in Transitions, it would be better this way.

A master of the footwork: Brian Joubert as the Ice Knight in "Snow King 2" (Moscow)

A master of the footwork: Brian Joubert as the Ice Knight in “Snow King 2” (Moscow)

You said you follow some competitions now. Do you have any favorite skaters?
For me it’s Denis Ten.

Do you ever look back at your competitive career? Do you have a new understanding maybe of some moments of your competitive years?
I know I did some good things, and I did some mistakes too; especially for me it’s 2006. But I have no regrets. I tried to do my best all the time.

[Interview by Nadia Vasilyeva, Moscow/intro and editing by Florentina Tone]


Evgeni Plushenko returns to St. Petersburg as the “Snow King”. Act I

Evgeni Plushenko returns to St. Petersburg as the “Snow King”. Act II

Brian Joubert: “It was a very good moment for me to stop competing”