Naomi Lang: „Shows mean everything to me – it’s an outlet to express myself”

1 Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev

For the figure skating fans of our days, „Parisienne Walkways” is the song that accompanied Yuzuru Hanyu during the Olympic season and led him to a massive score in Sochi – a new world record for his short program. But for the rest of us watching figure skating for a while now, Gary Moore’s „Parisienne Walkways” will always be the song the ice dancers Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev skated their amazing free dance to, at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. What a magnetic, eye-catching routine that was – one that stayed in the minds of many for the years to come. More than a decade has passed since the end of their competitive career – and Naomi and Peter decided to continue their partnership, skating together in shows all around the globe; and very often in Russia and the surrounding countries. In mid-February, the duo – alongside colleagues from the show „Yunona and Avos” – performed in Belarus and this particular interview took place at the end of the tour, on February 14th, in Minsk. It was almost midnight when the autograph session ended – and Naomi, tired as she was after the Belarusian „marathon”, happily agreed to answer to our questions…

interview by Alena Shukalo and Veronika Potaturko/Minsk

As far as we know, your interest in figure skating appeared after you had seen the series of shows Ice Capades… Do you believe that watching ice shows as a child can make you interested/involved in figure skating?
Naomi Lang: Yes, absolutely. I think the performance, the costumes, the acting – it can all influence children to skate. It stirs the interest, I think, of everybody; it gets people’s attention. That’s what happened to me: I saw the costumes, the lights, I saw how people reacted to the skating and I just fell in love with it.

What about the actual figure skating competitions? Which one do you like more – at least at this point of your life?
I prefer shows. I love to compete, but I prefer shows, because it’s a little more free, you’re not restricted to elements, you’re able to skate what you want, you’re able to feel what you want, perform to the people more than (to) the judges.

Looking at the shows you’re taking part in, what do they mean to you?
Shows mean everything to me. It’s an outlet to express myself: I really enjoy acting, playing different parts in the show, whether it’s Conchita [Conchita Arguello, the role played by Naomi Lang in the ice show „Yunona and Avos”] or something in the „Nutcracker”… It’s a challenge for me to adapt to a character.

Naomi as Conchita Arguello and Peter as  Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov in the show "Yunona and Avos" (Minsk, February 14th)

Naomi as Conchita Arguello and Peter as Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov in the show “Yunona and Avos” (Minsk, February 14th)

What about „Yunona and Avos”? Have you watched this particular rock opera in a Russian theater?
I watched the whole thing on video – and it’s amazing.

Is it very difficult for you to skate to Russian music?
No, I have a lot of great people that I work with that translate everything for me, so I can understand what I’m skating to – and acting out a little bit more…

…and do you happen to have any favorite actors or singers in Russia?

Obviously, Peter’s wife, Nastya [Russian actress Anastasia Zavorotnyuk]. I love her to death. She’s not only an amazing person, but an amazing actress. And she always makes me feel like I’m at home, whenever I visit them.

You’re the mother of three children – and you still manage to go on tour in the United States, and not only: you’re now in Belarus, you come to Russia frequently… How can you do it?
Oh, it’s very hard to combine family, work, traveling, with three children. It’s very difficult. I find when I am at home I have to be on a very strict schedule: I wake up very early in the morning to do my running exercising, before school; then I get back, I get my children ready, I take them to school, I come back, I take care of the baby, then I go pick them up from school, come home, make dinner, put them to sleep – and do it all over again. So when I come to do shows, I kinda feel like I’m on vacation from normal life; it’s different.

Are the Russian shows different somehow from the American ones?
Very different.

And, if we may ask, which one do you prefer?
I prefer the shows in Russia because they put so much more theatrics in it, with costumes, storylines…. It’s just people appreciate theater more here than they do in the United States. In the United States it’s more commercialized.

Do you watch figure skating now?
Sometimes when I’m home I do watch figure skating, but not very much. The last thing I watched? The US Nationals. [this particular interview with Naomi took place in February]

Do you work now as a coach, as a choreographer, as Peter Tchernyshev does…?
Yes, I do coach in the United States. And I watch Peter – when I’m here I go to all their practices and give my opinion. He always asks me from an outsider’s point of view what I think when I see something for the first time. And it’s very fun for me.

Do you happen to have any favorite ice dancers – from the moment you ended your career till now…?
Favorite ice dancers? I really enjoyed watching the career of Charlie and Meryl, the US… well, now Olympic champions, because we’ve known them since they were 7-8 years old, we trained with them. So, we trained together while they were growing up as a couple, and to see them win the Olympics for the United States was a very cool thing for us.

Are there any figure skaters that you also like?
I really enjoy Kovtun and Adelina. I love Adelina. I know them personally and I like to follow their careers. Let’s see, who else… Poje and Weaver. I love them, I really love them. I started following them a long time ago and they are very nice people as well.

Coming back to the shows, maybe you remember some interesting or funny moments that happened during them, in Russia…
It’s always interesting, because you never know what to expect. I’ve come across Russian time, which is always late, everything is always late. They say: we start at 8 o’clock, but you never do…
Sometimes you can miss connections with your partner and you just have to keep going, laugh about it and talk each other through it. Is always something funny that happens, every show is not the same – and that’s pretty fine.

Naomi and Peter, at the end of the show in Minsk (February 14th)

Naomi and Peter, at the end of the show in Minsk (February 14th)

We’d love to have you say a couple of things about your partner – Peter Tchernyshev was your partner when you were competing and he still is, now that you’re skating together in ice shows…
Peter is a great partner, I have to say. He is an amazing person, he’s always been there for me, my whole life, he’s like my big brother. But at the same time he’s very strong minded and… moody. Everyone laughs, while Naomi continues with a smile: You know, he’s a man, it’s how it is with them sometimes. He is very creative, so if you get in the way of his creativity, it’s a little bit tough to work with him, but he is amazing.

Pictures taken in Minsk, on February 14th, during the show „Yunona and Avos”: Naomi Lang plays the part of Conchita Arguello, the daughter of the Spanish governor of California, while Peter Tchernyshev is the Russian nobleman Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov; their love story is a tragic one.

4 Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev

5 Naomi Lang

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A smiling Naomi Lang in Minsk, Belarus, on February 14th

A smiling Naomi Lang in Minsk, Belarus, on February 14th

PHOTO-GALLERY: „Yunona and Avos on ice”, a feast for the eyes