Sara Hurtado: “Our own story surprises us every day”

Sara and Adria in Budapest

Definitely one of the highlights of this year’s edition of the Europeans, Sara Hurtado and Adrià Díaz entered Top 10 ice dance couple of the continent with a stunning performance about Pablo Picasso and his muse, Dora Maar. The result of a collaboration of Marie-France Dubreuil, their coach, and David Wilson, this particular free program of the Spaniards is purely a marvel – to say the least; a touching and powerful routine that makes you stand up, cheering and applauding. Having already made history for their country – they are the first dance couple to represent Spain in ISU competitions and the first Spanish dancers to qualify for the Olympics – Sara and Adrià are constantly pushing the boundaries of the sport, with their innovative, out of the ordinary elements; and the originality of their programs is clearly one of their strengths.

With their next stop being the Olympics in Sochi (Russia), Sara kindly agreed to answer some of Inside Skating’ questions after the Europeans’ experience; you’ll discover a wonderful and motivated girl, very much involved in the creation of their programs and grateful to everything that had happened to her and Adrià in the past few years.

by Florentina Tone

Whose idea was it to incarnate Picasso and his muse, Dora Maar? And how did you prepare for the program? Read about their relationship? Saw some of Picasso’s work? It’s truly a masterpiece of a program – and, after the Europeans, I’m sure that many figure skating fans are interested in its story…
The idea came to us when we were looking for pieces of music for this year’s free program. We were decided to find something that represented well our Spanish roots – and since we didn’t want to skate a Flamenco, we started searching for ideas and for Spanish artists we could do a tribute to. And that’s how we came across the movie “Surviving Picasso”, that talks about the relationships the artist had with many women in his life and how he used them to get inspiration and create art. So we started looking for the soundtrack and, then, for other pieces to finally click them all together with the final piece of music from the Spanish singer Estrella Morente, a piece that gives the program the final touch.

The creative process that took us to the final result is very special and I would never forget it. To create the story, we did our own research about Picasso and his different muses, we saw a documentary about his life, the movie “Surviving Picasso”, we read books about him, we saw his paintings – everything we could do, in order to better understand and interpret the story.

We decided to choose the story of Dora and Picasso because their relationship was very intense. They met both as artists (Dora was a photographer), they fell in love, he painted her many times (one of her portraits is actually painted on my costume) and, finally, when he got what he wanted from her, he moved on to a different woman. This is the moment when Dora went crazy; she ended up in a psychiatric institution because she couldn’t bear the feeling of not having him by her side. So, for them, for their love and their story, we created this program. Without their story and their inspiration it would have been impossible. But it took us some time to understand how to interpret the story; we have also worked off-ice with our theatre coach, to feel like them and being able to transmit that to the audience.

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Who is the choreographer of the free dance? Have you worked with him/her before?
The choreography was the result of the previous research and inspiration process. It was a collaboration of our coach, Marie-France Dubreuil, and David Wilson. We never worked with David before, but Marie did – and watching them both in action is an experience worth a million; they would link their moves and ideas, creating a beautiful transition that we would try to imitate. I say “imitate” because at the beginning nothing would look as good as they did.

What about the music you used for the free? The second part of it, especially “Le Di a la Caza Alcance”, is absolutely touching. Who made the musical choice? It suits you both like a glove – it must be in your blood to feel (and to dance to) this particular piece of Spanish music…
Oh, yes, that piece… “Le Di a la Caza Alcance” made everything possible. We were looking for a piece of music to finish the program strong; all the pieces we had heard were very soft and nothing was fitting the “going crazy” part of the story. One night, I was looking for pieces of music with voice, Spanish voice, and I found this. Something moved me inside when I first heard the song, so I said to myself: This is the song, this is the piece we should use. Next day everybody at the ice rink felt the same, so that was really the song! Thanks to Estrella Morente and this creation we were able to finish the program as we wanted; without this piece it wouldn’t have worked.

What does the name of the song mean, “Le Di a la Caza Alcance”? How would you translate it?
The name of the song is even hard to explain in Spanish; it comes from a very old poem from a preacher called San Juan de La Cruz. It talks about reaching for illumination, “After a leap of love, I reached the hunting”, “hunting” meaning the looking for love, for faith, for light… And, in a way, the song suits the story very well, because she is looking for Picasso’s love again and she is trying to reach it…

I cannot forget about the costumes – yours, Sara, is absolutely marvelous. Who designed them? These are, actually, my favorite costumes of the season, alongside those of Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat…
Wow, thank you very much. The idea of the costume came with the program. I was interpreting Dora Maar – not just the woman, but the painting, the art, so we thought about becoming the painting. Thanks to one of the mother of one of our teammates, the painting worked perfectly. I gave her the portrait of Dora and she did everything in about 3 days – and it looks exactly the same! It was very risky to do something like that because there was no time or option for mistakes and it could have looked tacky or overdone… I had to be honest: the night I gave her my costume to paint it, I couldn’t sleep just thinking about how bad it could look, but, for my surprise, it came out perfect.

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You’ve been fresh and innovative – as your coaches, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, were when they were competing. Too bad that, in my view, the judging system doesn’t reward as it should the innovative and original programs/couples… Who’s the “brain” of these innovative pieces of your programs (and I’m thinking mostly about those wonderful lifts and twizzles…)?
I agree, being innovative is hard with the system, but, at the same time, if we don’t take the risk, nothing will change and everybody will do the same things. You have to be very careful with the rules, but it’s not impossible. We accept the challenges and we think that’s how we push our sport to evolve, to grow. From the beginning, Adri [a diminutive for Adrià] and I have been very curious and we didn’t want to do the same thing twice. We believe in bringing new stuff to this sport. The brain of our creativity is a composition of many little brains working together. I would see a lift on the internet we could do, Patrice would tell us how to make it work on the ice, Adri would say how we could improve it, Marie would say how to make it look nice and musical… This is all a team work, if we miss one piece it would never work.

You entered Top 10 dance couples of the continent at this year’s edition of the Europeans; last year, you were on the 15thplace, also with a wonderful free program. And if it hadn’t been for the fall, you would have been probably higher than that. How did it happen, the fall? A deep sigh was heard in the entire arena when the fall happened – seemed that everyone wanted you to succeed in skating a flawless program in Budapest…
We also wanted to succeed, I think everyone does, but the thing with this sport is that anything can happen. We honestly don’t know where that came from, but we are okay with it, we learn from it. This means that you can’t let your guard down until the very last moment of the program, until the moment you’re seated in the Kiss&Cry, saying “Hello” to everybody and waiting for your marks. Every move on the ice is so tricky that anything can happen. Our performance in Budapest was good as it was; with or without the fall we only have good things to take from it.


How are you approaching your first Olympic Games? You are, actually, the first ice dancers to qualify an Olympic entry for Spain – and this is quite a performance. Which is your personal goal for Sochi?
Yes, already being qualified and making history for our country is the biggest thing has ever happened to us in our lives. We started from scratch, with the Olympics in our heads, but turning out to be real it’s just incredible. Our personal goal is to make it to the final, the top 20 is going to be very tough, but, most of all, we just want to live the experience from beginning to end – this is our personal prize for all the efforts we have made through this years.

I may be wrong but I don’t remember any Spanish ice dance couple in the last two decades – were there any before you?
No, Adri and I are the first ones. That was one of our main difficulties when we decided we wanted to skate together. Our Federation was very interested in starting another discipline in Spain, ice dancing, but it was hard because there were no coaches or any kind of culture about ice dance in our country; and being the first ones meant being the only ones, which was another difficulty when looking for a coach. It meant the coach had to come to Madrid to be in charge of just one team, at least at the very beginning.

Our own story surprises us every day: just 5 years ago we were two single skaters who were bad jumpers and didn’t want to quit skating because we loved it. Our passion and energy moved the Federation and thanks to them believing in us we were able to start this dream and achieve all that we have done.

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Which is your favorite ice dance couple ever? Who do you aspire to be like? And what do you like about that particular couple?
It’s really hard to decide just one couple… We like different things about a lot of couples. But if we have to decide one, it will be the Duchesnay’s. They took risks and they were super creative with every move they did; they revolutionized ice dancing and in spite all the difficulties they had during their carriers they were able to keep it up and surprise everybody every time.

Here’s a PHOTO-GALLERY of Sara Hurtado and Adrià Diaz at the 2014 Europeans in Budapest.