Team Papadakis-Cizeron-Haguenauer. Journey to the Top



We know what the whole team eventually chose, as a companion in Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron’s second Olympic season.

Gabriel Fauré’s Élégie.

A subtle, yet powerful piece, to cello and piano, written in 1880 and first performed in public in December 1883, at the Société Nationale de Musique, in Paris, by the composer himself at the piano and the cellist Jules Loeb.

Romain remembers: “We all search for music, it’s a mix- of everyone – but I think Guillaume found that. It was actually something we had on our list for them in the past – so we came back to that, and when we re-listened that music, we said: Oh, wow, it’s fantastique!, because there was some section that could really be a tango”.

A day after our talk with Romain, Guillaume would acknowledge with a smile: “I think I introduced this piece a few years ago. A little bit every year, actually [laughing], but it wasn’t meant to be. And this year, I think it just reunited all the pieces of the puzzle that we wanted”.


Listening them talk about this free dance, Romain on one hand, the skaters on the other one, you can’t help but noticing: they’re mirroring each other’s words, perspectives. They’re definitely sharing the same vision when it comes to the nuances, the layers of the piece – about how it could be used, to what result.

Romain: “I think it’s a very rich music, very emotional – and not an easy choice to skate to. There is some subtlety in this music, which is not known also. Gabriel Fauré, he’s famous – but not for the large public.

So we all agreed with that, and we said: Ok, let’s try to do some steps of your [previously choreographed tango] program on that, to see if it works, and if we could keep some parts, like the twizzles… Everything was redone, of course, but we kept what they wanted to keep. Because, in fact, it was not the music [they wanted to keep], it was the intention, the mood, the strength”.

The overall result of their creative efforts? A tapestry of beautiful movements – more like an Art Nouveau piece in motion.

The coach nods in agreement when listening to the description.

“It’s exactly that. It’s a bit Art Nouveau – because it’s the time of the composer – and it’s the mix of that tango with contemporary moves”.

►►► Guillaume: “We wanted something that was our style, but also that would challenge us to do something different. And we wanted to be able to incorporate some lyrical, more classical movements with contemporary ones, and still have that passion layer to it – we really wanted something that we could attack more this year, with the energy that we had at the moment”.


In bringing this program to life, in the exact form it was intended, a different choreographer, one coming from outside the skating world, was brought to the rink.

The idea was there from the beginning – it was also suggested by Nathalie Péchalat, the president of the French Federation.

“Nathalie said: They have to work with this person from the Opera of Paris. And it’s normal for the federation to want that… We train a lot of teams, so they don’t want everyone to look like each other. And we don’t want that either [smiling].

And I said: Yes, of course – but it was impossible to travel, so we’ll find someone in Canada. Because Canada, and Montreal in particular, in terms of dance, culture, circus, is the capital of the world-: a lot of things happen here, and a lot of artists, who work in Hollywood with the best dancers, are from Montreal. So we really have the opportunity to find excellent people for every team we have”.

And for Gabriella and Guillaume’s Olympic free dance, the team of specialists at Ice Academy of Montreal joined forces with the Canadian choreographer Saxon Fraser.

“Marie-France did the program as a whole, the skeleton – steps, transitions were more or less done, but we wanted to add a very contemporary feel to it. So Gaby and Guillaume worked with this choreographer on the beginning, the shape, the overall movement – while also bringing the spirit. And they also worked with Eva, our ballet teacher, who was from Bolshoi, to bring this mix – plus the tango feeling, plus the mix of me, Marie-France, and Gabriella and Guillaume’s talent and experience”.

►►► Guillaume on the outside input: “The choreographer that we chose to help us, her name is Saxon Fraser. She’s very versatile: she has done so many styles of dance, a lot of ballroom, but also mostly contemporary and everything.

It was perfect to work with her because she really understood where we were really trying to go with this program. And it was really nice to be able to only use that piece, and not do a mash-up of several pieces of the same artist. It’s something that we’ve always been a little bit frustrated, to cut pieces, especially when they’re like… masterpieces. And this piece in particular [Élégie, by Gabriel Fauré] has a really nice crescendo that I think is very enjoyable and makes a really nice structure for the program”.


There’s one thing that’s very obvious here, either you talk to Romain or the skaters themselves: for this particular Olympic season, they had all the time in the world to prepare.

And while other dancers were getting ready for 2021 Worlds in Stockholm, or catching their breath after the Worlds, Gabriella, Guillaume and their team in Montreal were already in the search for the perfect pieces of music, to accompany them in their second Olympic journey.

In an interview for Inside Skating, Gabriella would state the obvious advantages of the situation: “We had a lot of time to do the choreography, work with specialists and choreographers that we’d never worked with before. We had time to do the programs that we wanted to do”.

And with the free dance music decided, alongside the direction to go with it, they had to find something to fit ISU’s requirements for the 2021-2022 rhythm dance: Street Dance Rhythms, with Midnight Blues as the Pattern Dance Element.

And so they tried different styles, while working with a dancer from Montreal, Kim Gingras, to see what they liked, what felt good in their bodies. And they were initially drawn to voguing as a choice for the rhythm dance – until Marie-France Dubreuil brought the idea of waacking on the table.


And the waacking-discussion with Romain starts with a slice of honesty on our part (“Never heard of waacking before them choosing it for their rhythm dance!”) and a good share of amusement from the coach: “Because you don’t go out enough!”.

Laughter aside, Romain is ready to share his thoughts on the matter.

“Waacking is new on ice, but off-ice it’s very common.

Going out in the clubs, watching the scene, you could see a lot of these movements. I didn’t know the word, the word waacking, but I knew this type of dance, I knew it existed in clubs, as a way to dance, and on the scene too, in the big shows, in the US particularly.

And Marie-France brought a video of that, and Samuel Chouinard knew someone who was a specialist of waacking in Los Angeles, but she’s from Montreal and she was staying in Montreal during the pandemic. Because of all this COVID, we had access to a lot of people that stayed in Montreal, they were all there – and, for us, it was fantastic: we had a lot of great people that came to work with all of our teams.

And Gaby and Guillaume learned a lot from her, because waacking is a super-fast movement – and then it had to be adapted to the ice, and place the movements here and there, but not too much, because they also had to skate… But the concept is just great!”

►►► Gabriella: “The first hour we met Axelle Munezero, the waacking specialist, she talked to us about the history of the dance, and where it came from, and how it evolved, what it means, and we completely fell in love – and then we started dancing, and then we fell in love again!

We started working with her a lot, no choreography at first – for several weeks we were just doing basics and started waacking on different types of music, trying to find our own style… Because waacking is large, and the meaning is to find your own thing in that, so we were trying to do that, she even made us battle between each other [laughing], and it was super fun!”

And they did find their own thing, and choreographed the program to the music of the American R&B singer John Legend.


And Romain will share his opinion on the music: he was pleased with the choice – for so many reasons, but there’s one that stands out: the music matching the sheer quality of the skaters.

“When we found the music, I was very, very pleased.

While some other skaters, other teams are more confident with something more pop, more entertaining, Gabriella and Guillaume, I know they don’t really like pop music to skate to. Even what they did with «Fame», it was different, they did well, and it was fun- – but it was not their thing.

The music has to be a bit more… I don’t want to say intellectual, but more refined. And the music of John Legend, which is not an easy one to skate to, is at a level which works for them.

And I like that for Gaby and Guillaume, because they’re refined dancers, refined skaters.

They chose very well their quality [of the music], and I don’t think a lot of skaters could do that. And I don’t want them to do something that was already done and that can be done by a lot – I don’t want them to reproduce that.

And to do that [to do something different], it’s tough. And I’m very pleased with that choice – and it works well”.

That doesn’t mean the coaches won’t make changes throughout the season in the structure of an already put-together program, if changes are needed.


You might have noticed in Turin, at 2021 Gran Premio d’Italia: Gabriella and Guillaume skated a slightly changed rhythm dance in its middle part.

They kept the (already) trademark “Made to Love” at the beginning and the end, where some of the most stunning waacking movements are placed, to the amazement of all of those watching – but changed the “You & I” bits to the more suited “U Move, I Move”.

It was a necessary change, says Romain.

“Even if they had the time to make the choice, and we did it, and the previous music in the middle was nice, it’s also true that it was very lyrical. It was good when it comes to the rules, the beat was there, but it was a lot about the voice and, of course, the skaters followed the feeling of the music.

And, very quickly, we noticed in Montreal, even before the Masters, that maybe this middle section was a bit flat. But, you know, it’s a balance too, you don’t want the three musics to be too big.

And when we started the season, and we started to hear the music from competition to competition, not only for them, but for the others as well, we felt that we wanted a street feeling, from the beginning to the end – it had to be street!

Because even if you pick a blues – and you are allowed to do a blues – it has to be street. And I realized that Gaby and Guillaume’s middle part of the dance didn’t appeal for some breaks, for some accentuations of the movements, to even do some waacking.

So we knew it before [the season] started, but we said: Ok, first, we have to compete again! Because it was challenging, after 20 months-!”

And so the coaches decided to make the necessary changes on the rhythm dance later in the season, before the Grand Prix Series started – and, for the moment, they focused on getting Gabriella and Guillaume ready, and confident, for their return on competitive ice, after what had been their longest competitive break.

Remember: their last competition had been in January 2020, the Europeans in Graz – with the outcome we all know.

Eyes on the Masters de Patinage in Épinal, France, a competition scheduled at the end of September-beginning of October 2021, skaters and their coach were all a bit emotional.