By Matteo Morelli
Hannah Lim & Ye Quan are taking Korean ice dance to new levels. Training at the Ice Academy of Montreal, they told us about their transition from Junior to Senior and how they are approaching this season where, after ending their junior years on a high, they have to get themselves known to new crowds and judges.
Hannah and Ye, it is a pleasure to get to know you. Let’s start looking at this season: how do you feel after two senior Gran Prix events completed?
Ye Quan (YQ): We feel relieved, but pretty happy with what we did in (Grand Prix de) France, the performance level that we wanted to reach was achieved for this competition, and we are really proud of it.
Hannah Lim (HL): At Skate America we were a little disappointed after the rhythm dance, but then in the free we were feeling a bit better, and in France we wanted to beat our scores from Skate America. We moved up and we are really happy about it.
This is your first year as senior skaters: what are your aims for this season?
YQ: We really want to put ourselves out there for everybody to know us. We were pretty high up in the juniors, but senior is a different thing: new crowds, new judges. We want to stand out so that everybody can notice that we are not just baby juniors coming up fresh.
HL: Our goal coming into the Grand Prix season was that we wanted to leave an impression on people and be memorable. When we skated competitions in junior the crowds knew us, but here in France some people came to us after saying they just discovered us this year or at this competition, so this shows we are still new.
Let’s talk about your programmes: how did you come up with your rhythm dance?
HL: For the rhythm dance there is an 80s’ theme, so there was a wide selection of music. It was mainly our coaches Marie-France (Dubreuil) and Ben (Brisebois) that told us that we should do Prince, because he is a well-known artist. We really liked the music from the “Purple Rain” album: we liked “Let’s go crazy” because it is fun and upbeat, “When doves cry” was a bit sadder but there was still a nice back beat to it, so we decided to choose this music. We were watching his videos of him on stage performing those.
YQ: Prince is a very specific character, sometimes I feel like I have troubles performing a bit more like him, but it is still something I am trying to study.
HL: Styling and how they moved in the 80s is different! Even with the facial expressions, sometimes I get confused or forget which facial expression to put on and I just do the same expression in the whole programme. It is still a learning process.
What about your free dance?
YQ: For the free, it was mostly Marie that suggested “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” music, but we didn’t take the version from the movie but the one of a singer from Montreal that sings the male voice in the song.
HL: It was a classical version that she found, it doesn’t sound like him at the beginning but then, after you hear it, it is like “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”.
Some of the senior skaters that you train with have been helping you during training?
YQ: During the summer, mostly Jean-Luc Baker coached us.
HL: Jean-Luc worked with us quite a lot at the beginning of the season. We always take advice from other skaters because they are always very open at sharing their experiences. They are all very kind.
YQ: They have different experiences and points of view, it is nice to know different ways and not only one specific we have to follow.
What teams do you look at and take inspiration from?
HL: I really enjoy watching Madison Chock and Evan Bates. The way that she expresses herself and the way they move together and connect every movement together is really nice to see and satisfying to the eye.
YQ: I really like Jean-Luc Baker and Kaitlin Hawayek: the way they connect between them is special, it is something I would like to implement for me and Hannah. I feel like they are really good dancers individually, but together they have that connection that draws you in. Every time they skate I stop looking at them. I want to figure out how to do that intricacy they have.
HL: Also, Gabriella (Papadakis) and Guillaume (Cizeron) have come to our rink to practice their show programmes before they leave for shows. We haven’t seen them skate live in so long, so they just did their programme, they weren’t even warmed up or trained at all, and I said ‘Ye, look at their moves’!
YQ: It looks like they never stopped training, it was incredible. Guillaume also coached us a bit, he has a different way of coaching, he goes deep into it.
Let’s talk about your junior career: the last year was pretty phenomenal, with a silver medal at the Grand Prix Final and at the Junior World Championships. Did you feel happy with the ending of your junior career?
YQ: I feel like we ended on a high, it could have not gone better for a season: we did JGPF, JWC, World Team Trophy. Everything felt more consistent, we felt confident in our skate.
HL: We grew a lot from our first international years as juniors, the way we train and communicate with each other really improved.
Entering the seniors’ field, what lessons learned did you take away with you from your years as juniors?
YQ: We learned how to communicate better, how to manage the stress level, how to do warm up and practices at competition, you have to learn when to keep your ground.
HL: That really helped us to mature into better skaters. Closing our junior year, we were focussing a lot on maturity, the way we skate during our programmes: when we did that in our last year, I feel like we accomplished that pretty well.
How do you feel the connection between you has evolved?
YQ: We did get closer, for sure Hannah knows more about me now, when I am stressed or ok or when I am in the zone, and the same from me towards her.
HL: Knowing and realising when we are stressed and down, we know what to do to help the other one to come out of it. For him, saying simple things helps, while for me when I am really stressed I start to speak a lot, so I like that he helps me to calm down and focus on the right things.
Do you hang out together when you are not busy training?
YQ: From time to time, yes. We are always together every day, so sometimes during the weekend for example we don’t hang out all the time, but when we get to hang out with friends we do that.
Outside of skating, what are you doing?
YQ: I am taking a break from studying, but I am coaching around twenty hours per week. I coach the younger skaters: before Grand Prix de France, I got my three young skaters that are five to eight years old, to their first competition. It was great to be the coach at the board, to push them: it is a different experience and a different stress. It is really fun, I like it a lot! It is also quite tiring, I am the head coach of my team, I do schedules, decide which competitions to go to. It is tiring, but very fulfilling and I feel like the parents appreciate what I do and I really like it.
HL: I also coach too, I started recently and whenever I take a student they tell me ‘you are Ye’s partner’: literally every student knows Ye!
What are you passionate about?
HL: I love dancing! Before, I didn’t have fobs to unlock the gym in my apartment building, but I got that recently and can go to the gym and practice my dancing. I look at different type of dances on YouTube. Also, walking the programme off the ice is really good. I try to do it quite late at the gym: when I walk my programme off the ice, some people working out there stare at me like I am crazy!
YQ: Figure skating off the ice doesn’t look as nice as on the ice! [Both laugh] Off the ice, I can’t do as many activities, I train and coach so much that when I am at home I just want to relax. I like to watch TV shows: recently I started to watch a Korean drama because I want to practice my Korean as well, Hannah recommended it. It is called “Hotel de Luna”, I am really enjoying it!
Ye, have you ever studied Korean before?
YQ: I do have classes in University, but this semester I couldn’t go because they only have in person classes and with my training and coaching I didn’t have time to commute all the time. I will try to get the online classes in my next semester. I still try to do a little bit of online classes, but with the competitions it is difficult to be consistent.
Hannah, your family moved from Korea to Canada, where you were born. Are you fluent with the Korean language?
HL: I am pretty fluent, I still need work on my interviews, I can do them and translate for Ye and translate back, but there are still some words I never heard before that can come out.
Thank you so much for sharing all these interesting facts about you. Would you like to add anything?
YQ: Overall, we are really happy with what we have been doing so far and are really grateful for all the fans that come to watch us.
HL: We are also grateful for two Grand Prix assignments, particularly the French one where we could perform our French programme! We look forward to the rest of the season and the World Championships in Montreal, where we live. The Worlds’ rink is so close to where I live, it is a ten minute walk from mine. When I walk to the subway, I pass by it all the time and remind my self that Worlds will be there!
YQ: My whole family should be coming, which is exciting!