by Gina Capellazzi | Photo by Robin Ritoss

Last week, Gina Capellazzi, who is a part-time contributor to ice-dance.com, had a quick chat with two-time U.S. champions Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue while they were on tour with Stars on Ice.  Gina is also the web administrator for Figure Skaters Online, a website that focuses on providing content on the singles and pairs disciplines as well as providing website design and hosting for U.S. figure skaters.


IDC: If you sum up your season in one word, what would it be and why?

MH: Growth. It was a season where things were changing all the time. There were a lot of moving pieces, and with how much progress we were making behind the scenes, usually people don’t necessarily see that progress, but there was a clear result from that progress being that our program kept evolving through the season as we wanted to continue challenging ourselves. I so definitely think growth kind of sums it up for me. Also, growth as a partnership and in our relationship, and getting more focused on the plans for the next three years.

IDC: What was something memorable from this season, and what is something that you wish you could change if you could?

ZD: I think the most memorable is kind of a tie between Four Continents and World Team Trophy because Four Continents was an eye opener for us and it was kind of good because it gave us the motivation to go back and check everything. It [this season] was also our first World Team Trophy and it was really cool to actually compete as a team as we didn’t get to do so at the [Olympic] Games.

MH:  I don’t think we would say it is a regret because we didn’t go in knowingly that it would be a mistake, but if I could go back and re-do something, it would be the performance at Four Continents. Knowing what I know now, and knowing the panel and what they were seeing on practice, I think that was a little bit of a turning point for us in the season because there was a momentum to winning everything so that shocking result I think opened a window going into the other championship event. I would go back and re-do that stationary lift and get those points and come home hopefully with another gold medal.

IDC: Speaking of World Team Trophy, what was it like to compete in your first team event? Madison, as team captain, what was your role for the event?

MH: World Team Trophy was our first team event ever and I would say really everything was smooth sailing. They say at the Olympics ‘expect anything can wrong to go wrong,’ so as much as I would love our Olympic team experience to hopefully be the same, I don’t know but I was able to experience competing as a team for the first time. It was a really strong team, not only technically strong skaters, but also just really professional. As a team captain, I didn’t have to do much. There were no jobs really. I tried to always have team spirit and tried to be at everything that I could be at. I did press conferences at the end of the day, which was easy to speak on these skaters because everyone skated really well.  It was a fun experience and that was definitely memorable for the season.

IDC: This is your third Stars on Ice tour. What is it like to be part of this tour?

MH: Every year, it has been different. I think last year everyone was such in like an exhausted place and emotional place, whether your Olympics went well or not as well you hoped. It is just an emotionally draining thing. But it [the tour] was fun. We were able to do the free dance last season on tour, which was a really cool way to say goodbye to that program.  I think a lot of people felt that way, but we were all kind of like zombied-out. 22 shows, we brought all the energy we could to every city, but in between we were just sleeping. We had Adam [Rippon] and Mirai [Nagasu] doing Dancing with the Stars, so they were exhausted.  It was really like survival mode at that point. This year, it seems like everybody came in a little bit fresher. There are a lot more retired skaters on this tour, so I think it is a bit of a different energy.  I think people are a little bit more like it is that time of the cycle, where the off-season is about enjoying yourself, exploration and finding new paths. So far, it has been really fun and hopefully we get good audiences the rest of the way.

IDC: What are your programs for Stars on Ice?

ZD: We wanted to actually make show programs. We wanted to do different styles of music. We had our choreographer Sam (Chouinard) make an awesome number for a Queen medley of ours, which coincidentally Meryl [Davis] and Charlie [White] are also doing a Queen number, so there is a lot of Queen in this tour, even with Adam [Rippon] gone. We are also doing another one by Ben Howard “Oats in the Water”, which Madi was kind enough to let me choreograph, so that is kind of cool putting out my first actual piece that I have done (choreographed) and skated to in the show.

IDC: What was it like for you to choreograph a program for you and Madi?

ZD: Stressful.  Because we were changing up our free dance program [“Romeo and Juliet”] throughout the season, it [our “Oats in the Water” show program] got thrown together in like two weeks. Madi had a lot of patience, while I kind of went through my creative process. I think if I had a chance to do it again, I would definitely start doing it way earlier on and take more time and have more detail, but I’m happy with the first.

IDC: Is choreography something you want to get into once you are done competing?

ZD: Yes, even now, I want to start choreographing for high level skaters that are competing now.

IDC: Have you given thought to next season yet? Have you picked music for next season, especially for next season’s rhythm dance, which genre is Broadway/Musical?

MH: I think as an artist you can’t like go through the year hearing music and not already have things in your mind. I’m not always necessarily looking for music to skate to or looking for ideas, but things just happen.  I just listening to Spotify for fun and I stumble upon something that I like.  Through the year, even during competition season, we have our eyes and ears open and as soon as we start knowing a little bit more about the rhythm for rhythm dance, we start discussing.

Coming from a school of our size with so many elite athletes in Montreal, you’d better be quick to say what you want to skate to because it really is first come, first serve.  Especially with rhythm dance when they give you a specific genre, it is best to go early and try and figure out a few things that you really feel strongly about. We had our first meeting just two days ago in Montreal to discuss some options.  Next week, after these four stops, we will go home and it will be our first time actually skating on the ice. We will try some music. We will try different styles. We are lucky to have someone, who performed on Broadway for many years, helping our team now. She is going to be a huge asset to see what looks good on us and to help push us in the right direction because sometimes what you like to listen to, doesn’t actually look good on your body, so we want to make intelligent decisions.

IDC: Have you skated together to this genre before?

In unison: No!

IDC: Are you looking forward to it?

MH: I am.

ZD: Yes, most definitely. I’m excited to have something new because every new experience brings a lot of learning.

MH: We do the Finnstep. (This year’s pattern for the rhythm dance).

ZD: Yes, we have done the Finnstep, so we are comfortable with the dance.

MH: I’m comfortable with it and I like the first half especially that they have chosen. The twizzles don’t bother me at all. I know that is kind of one of the more difficult steps in the dance is to do the quick twizzles.  I find that fun and we like the speed of it, so it is going to be fun to see how everybody kind of transforms the Finnstep into different styles.

IDC: What you train for all year in a non-Olympic year is Worlds. Next year, it happens to be in Montreal. Does that change your training knowing that Worlds is practically happening in your backyard?

MH: What a cool opportunity, right? We try and do our best every year for every competition. We look ahead and see the schedule and if there is going to be something that is particularly strange, whether it be jet lag or competition scheduling.  We practice that to make sure we are ready for that. It is definitely going to be a big advantage, I think. Our goals are lofty and we want to keep pushing to be the top of the podium at Worlds. We train every day with Gabrielle [Papadakis] and Guillaume [Cizeron] and to be able to be in Montreal and training alongside our biggest competition is going to be a really cool experience and a nice daily reminder of what’s coming. It’s like a daily test run.

ZD: Yeah, for sure!

IDC: So what’s next after Stars on Ice? Are you going to start training right away for next season, or do you plan to take a vacation?

ZD: Haha! Make programs, make programs, make programs. We will take a vacation later on. There are a lot of teams that need to get choreography, so we need to get it done as soon as possible because we have training camps for U.S. Figure Skating.  We have stuff that we want to get done early enough, so that we have time to train it and also to be able to let our bodies rest in segments, too.  

MH: We like to get as much work done early. Especially with things like vacation, unless you can vacation right after Worlds when really you can just let yourself go, you usually don’t make a big decision or choreograph within those first couple weeks.  If you can take vacation, then great. Otherwise, at the end of May and the end of tour, I’m going to be on vacation. I’m going to be listening to music. I’m going to be trying to cut music. It is not going to feel like I can really let myself relax.

If we go home, we are going to have about five weeks to like stamp out the beginning details—the music, the layout of program, new elements—things like that. Then, we have a vacation planned in July. My fiancé [Adrián Díaz] and I were going to Luis Fenero and Eric Radford’s weddin,g so that is going to be lovely. My first big wedding and wedding in Spain, so that will be fun to see. A nice vacation in Europe.

IDC: Madison, have you and Adrián Diaz started planning your wedding?

MH: No! (laughs). We are going to go to Luis and Eric’s wedding, see everything they do, and we are going to learn from them.   For us, there is no rush. Something we have discussed is wanting to be able to get married and go on a honeymoon for a week or two weeks and not have to be like ‘I’m going to go home and train afterwards.’  I think we are going to save the marriage for retirement, so that we can really enjoy the honeymoon.