Q & A with Italy’s Tessari & Fioretti

by Daphne Backman | Photos by Julia Komarova

Jasmine Tessari & Francesco Fioretti of Italy have been skating together since 2016 and are entering their third competitive season. They are two-time Italian bronze medalists and recently answered some questions for Team IDC. 

Francesca also contributed to this article. 

IDC:  How did you each start skating?  

JT:  I started to skate at the age of 1 with the double blades skates and my mum, Cristina Mauri, was my coach. I was too young to remember, but my parents told me that I didn’t want to skate at that age, so I had a break from ice skating until I turned 5 years old.

FF:  I started skating when I was 7. I remember that there was a free trial in an ice rink in Milan and I convinced my mom to take me and two friends there. That one hour was enough to make me fall in love with this sport! The following year, my parents had me try other sports like soccer, basketball, and swimming, but by then, in my head, there was only skating, so I started with the basic courses. My teacher was Brunilde Bianchi, wife of Valter Rizzo (my first coach).  She immediately asked me to try dance and I haven’t stopped since.

IDC:  Tell us about your earlier partnerships.

JT:  I only had one partner before Francesco, because I’ve always been a solo skater. I started to do ice dance at the age of 14. The first experience I had with my first partner, Stefano Colafato, was really good. I remember I was really happy to skate as a couple. I found in my partner a friend, almost like a brother. We skated together for about 6 years. We started to have some problems between our partnership and we were destroying also our friendship, so at the end we just took different directions.

FF: I have had several partners, in the lower categories. I changed twice until I skated in juniors with Sofia Sforza.  We won the Italian junior national title three times and we went to Junior Worlds four times. After Sofia, I skated 6 months with Lauri Bonacorsi, a girl from the US, against whom I had been competing in juniors and who could get the Italian passport, but our adventure was short lived because of issues with the US-Italy move. After Lauri, I was away from skating for a few months, but I realized I missed it so I came back and started skating with Jasmine.

IDC:  How did you become partners?

JT: I started to skate with Francesco only few months later after I split my partnership with my previous partner. In that period, Barbara Fusar Poli wasn’t my coach, but she asked me to tryout with Francesco and I accepted. We tried to skate together for a few months before we decided to build our partnership and to make it official. Barbara believed a lot in us as a couple and she became our main coach from that moment. 

FF: We had both recently moved to Barbara and we were both without a partner. At that time I had tryouts for several months, I skated half a day with one partner and half a day with another. At the end, trusting Barbara and Stefano [Caruso], who saw a future in us, I decided to skate with Jasmine. At the beginning it wasn’t easy because we were coming from two different schools and experiences, but when we got to know each other and Barbara better, everything was easier, and here we are!

IDC:  How did it feel to qualify for the free dance at the European Championships?  Did this build confidence for you going forward?

JT:  It felt so good to qualify for the free dance at the last European championships in Moscow. We made it, it was our goal. The season before we missed it only for a few points. The big “Q” (qualified) was a big satisfaction. We felt stronger together and it was also good for our partnership because our beginning as a couple has been really hard, but we are finally reaching our goals step by step.

FF:  It was our goal for this season, even if we knew we had it in us to make it and we also hoped to get something more than the qualification. This is the starting point of a journey that we wish will conclude with something important. This result gave us more self confidence, not so much the placement, but the feedback we received from judges and external people.  This year they repeatedly told us that we have improved a lot compared to the previous years, and this gave us confidence and made us understand we are on the right path.

IDC:  What is your favorite thing about skating with each other?

JT: This question made me smile! We are really different. We have different and almost opposite personalities. We also act in different ways. That’s why, more than sometimes, we don’t understand each other. But being different is not that bad on the ice because we also complete each other. I like to skate with Francesco.  He is tall and strong, that is like the perfect combination for me. He is also really serious on what he does and he is always ready to “push” more on the ice—that is not something to take for granted in a partner. 

FF: The best thing about our partnership is that we are both hardworking and we have the same ambitions. We also have two different personalities and because we have been skating together relatively for a short time, we are still learning from one another. I think that this could be a positive thing, that fact that we compensate each other; one’s strength make up for the other’s weaknesses, so that we become a complete couple.

IDC:  What is the best thing about working with each of your coaches?

JT: The best thing about working with each of our coaches is that each of them has its own feature. Barbara Fusar Poli is really good in building programs. She has a lot of fantasy in everything she makes. She always tries many different steps with Francesco to feel if they can work or not on the ice, but then of course she can also do all the other things. She is a really good coach. She puts lot of passion on everything she does.

FF: Working with Barbara is super stimulating! She puts an incredible energy in what she does. At 7am or 10pm, she will always give 100% in coaching us, and we don’t take that for granted. She also always has new ideas and tries to create programs different from everyone else, to make the audience feel something.

JT:  With our coach Stefano Caruso, we usually make lot of good exercises for our skating skills. We always have that period of the season in which we make more exercises with him, but as Barbara, he is doing also all the other things like building parts of the program, checking the steps and the choreography.

FF:  I have known Stefano since I started skating. We have been teammates and now he’s one of my coaches. Because he finished competing not long ago, he can really understand what we are going through and what each of us needs.

JT: Then we have our choreographer and classic ballet coach Corrado Giordani, our technical coach Roberto Pelizzola, and our ballroom coaches Francesca Berardi and Giacomo Lucchese, with whom we train on the floor and on the ice. 

FF:  Roberto joined our team last season. He’s one of Barbara’s former coaches, so of course he knows a lot about the skating world! We work with him mainly on the technical side, and this is the role that was missing in our team.

Corrado is our choreographer and working with him is always so interesting! It’s nice to mix skating and classical ballet and find meeting points between these two worlds. Every day we learn something from ballet and he learns something from skating, lessons with him are a continuous give/take.

IDC:  Tell us about your programs for the upcoming season.

JT:  For the next season, we decided to skate to “L’hymne a l’amour“ by Patricia Kaas with parts of classical music for our free dance. We really like how we’re building this program all together.  

FF:  We are super enthusiastic about this music. From the first listen, we realized it would become our free dance! We are trying to create something inspired to contemporary dance. Even in the technical elements, we are looking for new shapes and movements that haven’t been used before. 

JT:  For the short dance we have some ideas for the tango, but we didn’t decide the music yet. 

FF:  Since we did a tango as FD two seasons ago, we are feeling pretty good. It is a genre that we like and we will try to present something to make the audience feel emotions.

IDC:  With the (anticipated) competitive retirement of Cappellini & Lanotte, as two-time Italian national medalists, do you feel additional pressure going into next season?

JT:  At the moment I actually don’t feel more pressure than the last past years, but we want to show to everyone and first to ourselves that we are a really good and valid couple and we always want to improve more and more. 

FF:  We don’t feel yet the pressure for results in terms of placements, but we really want to improve. We know we are on the right path, but there’s a lot of work still to do to reach our goals. Anna and Luca are leaving an important legacy, but I’m sure our training mates Charlene and Marco will be up to the task, and I am sure we will be ready when our time will come!

IDC:  What are your objectives for the next season?

JT:  One of our goals for the next season is to participate in all the important competitions we can. I also mean going to the World Championships for the first time ever. We’re working a lot on our partnership because we also want to reach the goal of being more in sync as a couple. 

FF:  Next season will start a new quadrennial, that we hope will conclude with our participation to the 2022 Olympics, so that’s our main goal.  Next year we would like to confirm our FD qualification at Europeans and get as close as possible to the top 10. Something else missing is an international title. This year we achieved two second placements by a few hundredths of a point, so we hope to make up for it in the next season.

IDC:  Team Italy had a great showing at the Olympics, with a fourth place rank only a few points out of bronze, and good placements in the individual events. How did you feel watching your teammates compete? What did you think of the ice dance competition?

JT: I woke up many times in the night during the Olympics to follow and to cheer for our teammates competing in PyeongChang. I wish we could have been there too! I think team Italy did a good job at the Games. About the ice dance competition, I would say that I couldn’t decide which couple deserved more to win. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir were amazing, but I couldn’t find a different word for the couple Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron. I was really sorry for the little accident that Gabriella Papadakis had with her dress in the short dance. 

FF: Watching the Olympics is always exciting, especially supporting skaters we have known for a long time. Team Italy was fantastic! I hoped until the very end for a bronze medal in the Team Event. Unfortunately it didn’t happen, but it was a competition to remember for the ages. It was especially emotional to watch Matteo Rizzo. I have known him since he started skating and we are particularly close.  It was beautiful to see that all his sacrifices brought results. The dance competition was really tight.  It was obvious the first two teams would have been in a league of their own.  It was the best career end for Tessa and Scott – they may have shown that they are the best ice dance team of all time! Anna and Luca as always managed to make everyone feel something. Even if they didn’t win any Olympic medal, I am sure they will be remembered in the skating world for the feelings they leave with each performance. I was also really happy that Charlene and Marco made the top 10. I see them every day in practice and they deserve it with all the hard work they put in.

IDC:  To which current or past couples do you look at for inspiration?

JT: I’m actually looking at two big couples that I already named in the last answer – Virtue & Moir and Papadakis & Cizeron. They are both amazing, but they are different. I love the naturalness of the French couple in every movement they make. When I look at them I see harmony, they are like a poetry. The Canadian couple Virtue & Moir look more as a powerful couple.  She looks, in particular, really athletic in everything she makes like jumps and lifts and when they skate they look like one only person, like Gabriella and Guillaume. These two couples have different styles, and I’m in love with both of them.

FF:  My favourite ice dancers are Virtue & Moir. They compete in another sport, they are not only skaters but artists, dancers, actors. Every time they step on the ice there’s a special aura around them, they convey so much even just by standing still and looking at each other. Of the new teams I admire a lot is Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, because they show big improvements year after year.  After the disappointment at the Olympics, I’m happy they medaled at Worlds!