“Restez bien dans votre bulle” [Stay in your bubble], coach Romain Haguenauer advises Gabriella and Guillaume seconds before his students take the ice for their free dance at this year’s edition of the Europeans. The French have come to Bratislava to defend their title – and prove last season’s success was not just a fluke. And, for the next 4 minutes, on the ice of Ondrej Nepela Arena, they’ll do just that: create their magic, and build a home with their arms, their breath, their bodies. Because with them, every single movement has a meaning, and continuity, as if it were a flowing liquid, or a story that never finishes to write itself. There’s beauty, and simplicity, and softness; and those seconds, those incredible seconds towards the end of the dance, when you can only hear the piano and the sound of their skates. And there’s them: at 20 and 21 respectively, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron have opened a new era in ice dancing – one can be written with “before” and “after”.
by Florentina Tone
It’s January 30, around noon, and Gabriella and Guillaume are spending their last tens of minutes prior to the free dance in the training area next to the ice, rehearsing bits and nuances of their routine, channeling their energies towards the big challenge of the day: the Europeans are their first international competition of the season, a troublesome season, marred by Gabriella’s concussion in late August. They’re past that now, and seem utterly in tune: in silence, with the music of their free dance in their heads (“To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra and “Rain, In Your Black Eyes” by Ezio Bosso), they’re finding each other, they’re entering the mood, they’re caressing the air.
“Of course, there is pressure, and, of course, there are people expecting things, but we were kind of in our bubble, so we were not thinking about anything too much”, Gabriella had said two days before, at the end of their short dance. The following photos, taken by Natasha Ponarina in Bratislava, are exactly about that: the French and their bubble; because these two have this extraordinary capacity of completely immersing themselves in their story, on and off the ice – and taking everyone with them in the process. Dare to contradict us.
At the end of the day, they’ll be, once again, Europe’s champions. And a bouquet of emotions – joy, relief, excitement – is easily traceable in Guillaume’s reaction: “I think it feels even more amazing than last year, because we proved that we could do it again. We managed to have a really great moment during the performance, and the audience shared this program with us”.