Paul Poirier: “This year for us is all about making a statement”

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier looking focused and determined, last season, at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier looking focused and determined, last season, at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow

I’ll raise an imaginary hat to Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier for their free dance in Kelowna, at this year’s edition of Skate Canada. A well-deserved silver medal for these incredibly gifted skaters – their first medal ever in the Grand Prix circuit – and a great start of the season for a couple wanting to prove to the skating community they “are going to be contenders for a medal at the 2018 Olympics”.

This particular interview was taken a few days after Skate Canada and, as you’ll see, Paul discusses both of their programs for this season: the free dance, called “Late night, early morning”, about a star performer and a bandleader spending a romantic evening together, and the short dance, choreographed by the famous Christopher Dean. There’s one more thing you need to know: Piper and Paul are using for the second part of their short dance the exact piece of music (Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espanol) used by Christopher Dean and Jayne Torvill for their Paso Doble in 1984. More than that, Piper is wearing an intriguing skirt-cape, black on one side, pink on the other one, her own version of the cape worn by Jayne Torvill exactly 30 years ago

by Florentina Tone

This is your first medal at a Grand Prix event and you did make up for the disappointment after the short, winning the silver medal after a wonderful free dance… How was the weekend in Kelowna for you and Piper?

Paul Poirier: The weekend in Kelowna was wonderful. It’s always a pleasure to compete at Skate Canada, and Kelowna was such a beautiful place. I think it was a privilege to win our first GP medal at home, in front of a Canadian audience. They are always so supportive and they really make our job a lot of fun.

What happened in the short program? [Piper and Paul finished this particular segment of the ice dancing event on the fourth place…] And could you tell me a little bit more about this routine, with Piper wearing that intriguing cape? Is there Christopher Dean in this story?

In the short, I made a mistake on the twizzles. My leg was a bit too far behind me on the jump going in, and so I was not able to control the direction of my twizzle, which brought me into the boards. It was very frustrating because that’s not a mistake I ever make in practice. On the other hand, the stakes were high and we wanted to do very well at the event, so I think I may have tried a little too hard here. Going to our next few events, we really need to trust our training and make sure that we perform consistently, which we haven’t always done in the past.
Chris wanted Piper to have a cape like Jayne’s, but Piper always likes to put her own twists on things. Her cape has a lot more flow and movement, which we think is very effective with this program.

Talking about this season’s programs in an interview for Inside Skating, you only told me the free dance would be “very different, much lighter and dancy” – and you were definitely right. Would you lead me into the story of the dance that brought you and Piper your first Grand Prix medal? You’re playing with characters again; this seems to be your forte…

We have learned that using characters really help us to make our characters genuine, especially in this Free Dance, called “Late night, early morning”. In the FD Piper is the star performer and I am the bandleader. The program starts (1st piece) with a show, us performing, and in doing so we notice each other in a new light for the first time. After the show, we spend a romantic evening together that lasts until the wee hours of the morning (the second and third pieces). The program is a lot of fun and I think that we’ve really learned to embrace our characters as we train it more and more.

Have you changed something in the programs since the Autumn Classic in Barrie? Is there room for improvement?

There is always tons of room for improvement. As I mentioned earlier, one big thing we want to address is consistency. In the off-season a lot of our focus was on artistry, and that work was reflected in our scores. However, that’s been a little bit at the cost of some technical levels, so we spent a lot of time before Skate Canada making sure we get our levels. They were a lot better this time around. We believe the programs still have a lot of room for growth, both technically and artistically. We are doing a lot of work on skating more quietly and closer together.

What are your hopes and expectations for this season that started so very well?

We definitely want to win another medal at Trophée Bompard, and since we are in a good place now we hope to qualify for the final. This year for us is all about making a statement, proving to the skating community that we are going to be contenders for a medal at the 2018 Olympics. Even though they are far away we want to start now!