Ben Agosto: From Champion to Commentator

Ben Agosto is a man who needs little introduction for figure skating fans. During his 12 years competing with partner Tanith Belbin [now Tanith White] (1998-2010), Agosto amassed a pile of medals and played a pivotal role in bringing the United States into the top echelon of the ice dance world.

In 2002, Belbin and Agosto won the World Junior Championships; three years later, they followed up with a silver medal in seniors at the 2005 World Championships. At the 2006 Torino Olympics, Belbin and Agosto became the first U.S. ice dancers to medal at the Olympics in 30 years, winning silver again. The duo went on to win three more World medals and many Grand Prix titles. Their success paved the way for the celebrated U.S. ice dance teams that have followed them, including this year’s newly crowned World champions, Madison Chock and Evan Bates.

But all this fame rests lightly on Ben Agosto’s shoulders. Long known for his charm and ready smile, Agosto is friendly and approachable off the ice. The native Chicagoan now lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, choreographer and consultant Katherine Hill. Often working together, the couple bring their talents and experience to many different areas of figure skating, including coaching, choreography, event production, and film work.

Agosto has also pursued a career in skating commentary and analysis, and has commentated on many Grand Prix competitions. In January, he joined Terry Gannon and Johnny Weir in the NBC booth for the senior ice dance event at the 2023 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Agosto also delighted ice dance fans this season by offering live-tweeted commentary on Twitter. 

At the 2023 ISU Four Continents Championships in February, Agosto hosted post-competition interviews with skaters and produced the opening ceremonies with Hill. He also found a few minutes to chat with me in Colorado Springs, sharing his thoughts on the role of skating commentators; the current state of ice dance; the pros and cons of pattern dances in the rhythm dance event; and news about his other projects in skating. 

Q:  Ben, can you talk about your commentating career? You’ve done ice dance commentary on TV and livestreams, and you’ve returned to it this year, and have been doing a bit more. You also had a presence on Twitter this season, offering event commentary there.

Agosto:  Right after I was done competing, I needed a little bit of space from the sport. There were a couple of years when I really didn’t want to watch very much. But then I started to realize how exciting it is to be on the other side. I was always on the ice before. It’s exciting when you’re not on the ice and you’re watching what everybody is doing. And especially, to see how the sport has evolved since 2010, which was my last competitive year. 

I went through the ISU technical specialist training for ice dance. That was really eye-opening, to [see] how much scrutiny is placed on the edges. I feel like there’s a need for the audience to be able to understand the rules. They’re very complicated now. Especially with ice dance, everything is so subtle. The difference between 1st and 5th place can be as little as a couple of edges that were wobbly, instead of being really smooth. 

A big goal of mine, in my commentary, is to help people understand why couples are receiving the scores they are. Because everybody looks good. At this level, everybody’s incredible. So what is separating them? We had a lot of falls the other night [in the Four Continents rhythm dance]. But usually it’s not as simple as, Well, they fell, or didn’t fall. There’s a lot of detail that has been a real challenge to convey, in a way that’s understandable but also doesn’t take a year to get through. [Smiles

I used to really enjoy it when I had the chance to work [onscreen] with Tanith. [Note: In the past, Agosto and his former partner sometimes joined forces in the telecast booth for TV coverage on the Olympic Channel or other NBC networks.] Tanith was starting to get into that play-by-play role, and I was doing the analyst role. It was right back into our normal banter. That was really fun, when we had those opportunities.

Belbin and Agosto with their silver medals at the 2006 Torino Olympics

This year, the commentary I’ve been doing on Twitter has been fun, because I can think about what I want to say before I write it. Whereas, when you’re doing commentary live, you just have to say it. You have to come up with a phrase right in the moment. The Twitter [commentary] has been really helpful to practice coalescing my thoughts in a more streamlined and very concise way, because you don’t have many characters on Twitter. That’s been great practice. 

And, being up in the booth with Terry Gannon and Johnny Weir at this year’s U.S. Championships was very exciting. I’ve known Johnny for a long time. We used to tour together. We were actually roommates one year during Champions on Ice–many, many moons ago. We’ve always had a nice friendship, and it was really easy to get back into that comfortable vibe, playing off of each other. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to do more of that. 

Q:  Would you be interested in commentating for the ISU YouTube livestreams?

Agosto:  Yes. Actually, I had that opportunity last year. It was for the World feed for the 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. I talked through every single skater, in every discipline. It was a marathon. I have a great appreciation now for everyone who does that in each Grand Prix event; they do an amazing job. It’s challenging. Once I got into it, it was kind of fun, because there was nobody else [commentating] to step on their toes. I could say whatever I wanted, and [introduce] each segment and announce the skaters. It was a great learning space, to learn the different roles [in broadcasting]. 

In the NBC booth, it felt quite comfortable because Terry Gannon is such an incredible pro. He was very welcoming, took on a mentoring role, and made me feel right at home. And Johnny was very kind, saying: “This is dance, this is your booth, I’m just here to add a little spice to it.” So I could just sit and get into the role of analyst, and let the thoughts come. Which is still not easy, but it was really enjoyable.

When I was doing the World feed [the previous year], I was trying to do Terry’s role, and my role, and Johnny’s role. 

Q:  I have a question about commentary. I assume that you personally know most of the ice dancers. How do you commentate on their performances in a way that’s fair, but also respectful of them as people? Is there ever a concern that it will affect your personal relationship with them?

Agosto:  Well, as time goes by, I know less and less of them closely. But it’s certainly something that is important. I think my general philosophy is to always be kind, regardless of who it is. Because what everybody is doing is really hard. I have so much respect for the time and effort that everybody puts into their training to be prepared, to go to these competitions. When it doesn’t go right, that’s already difficult for them. 

So I think number 1 is to be kind. And then, to call out when something’s not what it should be, or as good as it should be. If I can stay with those two pillars in mind–to be critical and informative, but also kind–then I think it’s okay. That’s the guiding light. If my friends skate poorly, they know they skated poorly. They wouldn’t want me saying that it was an amazing performance, anyway.

Belbin and Agosto performing in Torino (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Q:  Skaters get a lot of feedback from judges and coaches and officials. Since they’re so used to getting all that feedback/criticism, I sometimes wonder if it makes it harder or easier to hear negative commentary in a more public forum, such as TV or print journalism. What’s your take on that?

Agosto:  Well, as a judged sport, figure skating is a very judgmental sport. And, unfortunately, I think skaters get too much criticism, on things that are either not in their control, or necessarily relevant. There’s always so much discussion about the way people look, and their size. And those things have nothing to do with how good their skating is, or the elements or the content of their programs, or how innovative or interesting or difficult it is. So, I think, unfortunately, skaters are used to that.

It goes right back to being kind. The critique should be on the skating. Either the technique or quality or content. How did their execution match what the rules are requiring, and will they be able to earn the levels they’re going for? Not things like, Do I like their hair? 

I once was told by a judge that my head was too small for my body. I was like, What am I supposed to do with that? l was a little kid. This was not helpful, in that moment. So yes, I think skaters are used to it [criticism]. And obviously, being in a public forum, it makes it potentially more impactful, in a negative way. That’s always something in my mind. 

Q:  Since you’ve been commentating on, and following, the sport for the past few years, what are your general thoughts on the direction where figure skating is headed right now? Do you like what you’re seeing? 

Agosto:  That’s a tough question. When we look at figure skating, in general … The sport is struggling to maintain its grip on people’s imaginations. It feels like it’s becoming less and less visible. Being in the sport, it’s hard to see this. I think the sport really needs to continue to try to connect with, and expand, the audience. I think the rules are very complicated. So that may alienate some people. They watch and are like, I don’t know if that was good. They see a score and are like, I don’t know if the score was good.

Obviously, there were problems with the 6.0 [judging system] because it was hard to have accountability and to make sure that skaters were being rewarded appropriately for what they performed. I think there’s a lot of work for us in the sport to continue to make people excited about skating. Commentary is part of that. I live here in Colorado Springs, and any time people come to visit, one of the things I recommend is going to the Olympic Museum, which is right here. It opened two years ago, and it’s fabulous. You walk through the whole museum, and then the final thing is a theater where they show a film, just talking about Olympic history, and these great [Olympic] moments. You just get goosebumps; it’s incredible. The way that those moments are called by those announcers [helps] make them memorable. 

Q:  It does add to the experience.

Agosto:  That’s something my wife has been saying to me:  When you’re commentating, you have the ability to make this moment really special for the audience. That’s how they are going to remember it. Usually the skating is incredible, regardless. But when there’s that moment … Terry Gannon does an amazing job of helping the audience understand the gravity of the moment, how special this is, how important. And I think, the less opportunities that the audience has to experience that, the harder it is for them to connect to the sport and the athletes. So I think we have to try to keep putting it out there. 

The athletes are working incredibly hard to do their part.  Every year, there’s these [ISU] meetings about what the rules are for next year. Especially for ice dance, they send out a whole encyclopedia of new rules. As coaches, we have to go through and try to figure it out. We’ll see what comes out of those meetings. Hopefully it will be pushing the sport in the direction that keeps it entertaining, keeps it accessible. They talk about the remote control … we want people to keep watching. We don’t want people to change the channel when it’s on. 

Belbin and Agosto competing later in their career

Q:  Considering the need to keep people’s interest, what’s your thought on the proposed 1980s theme for next year’s rhythm dance?

Agosto:  An 80s theme–I was kind of chuckling. It could either be a rhythm, or it could be your Halloween party theme. [Smiles] I think the audience will really enjoy it. I know I’ll enjoy it; I love 80s music. A lot of the skaters will have a great time. It’ll be interesting to see what the content of the required elements ends up being. To see if that will help push it in the direction of people being like, Yes, this is great. 

I think the danger is that everyone could start to look too similar. That being said, I missed the pattern dance in the rhythm dance this year, because I like the opportunity to differentiate the couples when they do the same thing. Just for that one moment [in the rhythm dance]. The rest of the time, they do their own thing. Hopefully, we’ll continue to have opportunities to differentiate everyone’s skating skills. 

The 80s costumes could be fun. Maybe people will go for big hairstyles–since I was just talking about things that aren’t relevant. [Laughs] But they are relevant to people’s enjoyment of watching it–just creating the characters, coming up with the themes. There’s tons of music to choose from. I think it’ll be fun.

Q:  Would you support bringing the compulsory pattern back into the rhythm dance? It’s unclear what’s going to happen next season.

Agosto:  Yes, it is unclear. I would support the pattern dance being brought back. But I enjoyed the [choreographic] rhythm sequence this past season. I thought that was great. Pattern dances take a lot of time to train. So I think functionally, for everybody’s daily training, it was maybe nicer to not have the pattern dance. It takes a pretty big chunk of the program. When you’re choreographing, it’s like this [part] is taken already [for the pattern], and then how do you work around that? That’s a challenge, to create a cohesive, interesting piece that works with the pattern dance. 

I think my traditionalist side just misses the standalone pattern dance as it used to be [i.e., the compulsory dances]. But, that’s a thing of the past. I don’t think that’s what people want to be watching. I’m excited to see what they decide on. I know there’s lots of things being discussed. 

Q:  I think ice dance fans are also really interested to hear the decision. It seems like the rhythm dance requirements will come out sooner this season than was the case last season.

Agosto:  That would be nice. Obviously, it’s hard. They’re mandated with writing rules, but it’s hard to make sure it’s all pushing the sport in the right direction. Everybody has their own idea of what that is.

Agosto with his wife, Katherine Hill

Q:  In addition to your commentary work, can you talk about your other projects? You just produced the Four Continents opening ceremonies with your wife. How did that go?

Agosto:  It was fun. This was our first event that we really produced. We’ve been doing a lot of choreography work together. Last year, we worked on a film, which is hopefully going to come out sometime this year on Apple TV+. We’re not allowed to say what it is; we’re still under non-disclosure [agreements]. But that was an incredible experience, taking skating completely out of what we normally do. I’m really excited for it to come out. We worked on Cirque du Soleil together [“Axel” show], and we choreographed for Battle of the Blades [Canadian skating show]. It’s been really fun to have all these cool projects. We also coach; we have four ice dance couples right now that we’re coaching. Also, Katherine choreographed Amber Glenn’s short program this season. 

So we’ve been staying busy. It’s fun to put on different hats. Then you don’t burn out on any one of them. All the choreography work feels like it gives us more that we can bring to our students. Different perspectives and ideas on what is the goal of a program. It’s not just to do the required elements, and it’s not just to entertain the audience. How do you put it all together, and make it exciting?

Q:  With all of these projects, are you also doing work as a technical specialist?

Agosto:  No, I haven’t had time. It was really helpful to learn everything. When I went through the schooling [for it], I was looking forward to being on a panel and being like, Hey, I’m in the position to help make sure everyone is awarded the points that they’ve earned. But, with scheduling, I was just not able to make it all happen. We’ll see if that’s something I come back to over the next few years. But right now, I’ve got a pretty full plate. 

You can follow Ben Agosto on Twitter at


Lajoie/Lagha: “Worlds is the little piece that is missing to have had the perfect season”

Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha have had a breakout season in 2022-23. But when the rhythm dance starts next week at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships, they will  unfortunately be missing from the roster. It’s their misfortune that Canada has only two ice dance spots at Worlds this year–and three high-ranked ice dance teams. So it was always a given that one of the talented Canadian teams would have to stay home from Saitama.

It’s extra-disappointing for Lajoie, 22, and Lagha, 23, because they’ve had their best season by far. The duo notched two Challenger Series wins last fall, secured their first-ever medals on the  Grand Prix, and mounted a strong challenge for the title at the 2023 Canadian National Championships (ultimately falling just short and taking silver).

Not only did Lajoie/Lagha have great results, they also connected with skating fans via two crowd–pleasing and popular programs. Their “Cha Cha Slide” rhythm dance, with its spoken step commands and infectious melody, was an immediate hit and showcased their speed and energy. And the couple’s free dance to “Nureyev” from the The White Crow soundtrack revealed an emotionally intense, dramatic side to their skating that hadn’t been seen recently. Their free skate also got more exposure in a beautifully staged video from Jordan Cowan of On Ice Perspectives, which has over 11,000 views on YouTube.

Before this season, Lajoie and Lagha were already fixtures on the international ice dance scene. Their four-year junior career culminated with the 2019 Junior World title, and they’ve been competing in seniors since then. But it’s perhaps only this season that Lajoie and Lagha have captured the full attention of skating fans. The duo–who have been partners for 12 years–convey the impression of opposites on the ice. Lajoie’s wide smile and vivacity contrast strikingly with Lagha’s intensity and dramatic quality. It’s a unique partnership, in which the individual qualities of each partner are not subsumed to the whole, but rather, stand out in relief and complement each other.

Lajoie and Lagha–often known as “Marjo” and “Zak” in the skating world–train at the I.AM ice dance center in Montreal, Canada, with coaches Romain Hagenauer, Marie-France Dubreuil, and Patrice Lauzon. Although they regret that they’ll miss Worlds, they were happy to finish their season on a high note by winning the bronze medal at Four Continents. 

When I spoke with them in Colorado Springs, Lajoie and Lagha expressed satisfaction with their accomplishments this season. Off the ice, Lajoie has a sunny charm befitting her surname (which means “joy” in French), while Lagha is thoughtful and incisive. We talked about their season, how they developed their programs, why they find competition difficult, and what they want to work on in the off-season. 

Continue reading “Lajoie/Lagha: “Worlds is the little piece that is missing to have had the perfect season””

Hawayek/Baker Stay True to Themselves

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker are excited to be kicking off their Grand Prix season this weekend at Skate America. They have big plans for this year’s Grand Prix–and this season in general.

“We are absolutely aiming to be at the [Grand Prix] Final this year, which would mean podiuming at both of our Grand Prixs,” Baker said. “We don’t go into an event trying to be second. We want to be the best we can. We want to be in the top 6 at Worlds, absolutely. And we want to be stepping into the role of being National champions. We know that Chock/Bates have been [there] for a very long time, but we have to believe we can push into that space. Otherwise, we’re only ever going to be behind them.”  

Continue reading “Hawayek/Baker Stay True to Themselves”

Gilles/Poirier: Focusing on the Now

For Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, the 2021-22 Olympic season proved draining and difficult. The duo considered retirement, but are now back for another season of competitive skating. On a press call today with reporters, they talked about the process of rediscovering their motivation for the sport. For the 11-year veterans, it’s all about their mindset and approach to competition.

Gilles and Poirier started the Olympic season as reigning World bronze medalists. They acknowledged that this wasn’t necessarily the easiest position for them. 

Continue reading “Gilles/Poirier: Focusing on the Now”

U.S. Classic: A Look Back at Lake Placid

A couple weeks ago, I had a chance to go to Lake Placid, NY, to cover the 2022 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. The competition turned out to be pretty exciting, with Ilia Malinin making skating history by landing the first quad Axel. 

It was my first time visiting Lake Placid–a small town that has played an outsized role in the history of U.S. winter sports. Lake Placid hosted both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, and will host the 2023 Winter Universiade event next year. It is also a center for events and training in other winter sports. I didn’t really know what to expect from the town, but I had a feeling it would be pretty cool, one way or the other. And it was.

Lake Placid lies in the Adirondack mountains, at 1800 feet above sea level. Although it’s not, of course, as high up as the Rocky Mountains out west, I did feel the altitude a bit while walking around town. You can see hills all around in the distance, and the village sits directly on the shoreline of small but lovely Mirror Lake. The whole area is super-scenic and a really nice place to visit for a skating competition.

It’s pretty cool being near a lot of sports history, too. Directly on the other side of the street from the arena is the speed skating oval where Eric Heiden won five gold medals in the 1980 Winter Olympics. And U.S. Classic itself took place in the same rink where the “Miracle on Ice” happened and the U.S. hockey team won Olympic gold in 1980. Not too many skating arenas can boast that kind of history!

The Miracle on Ice rink at Lake Placid

The skating itself was pretty great. U.S. Classic is an early-season event, so you know going in that skaters aren’t going to be in the same kind of top condition as at Nationals or Worlds. However, the upside of the early-season timeframe is that you get to see a lot of new-program debuts and, sometimes, witness skaters trying out new things that they’d be hesitant to go for in a larger competition. I’ve attended this event three times now, and it always winds up being quite fun.

Here’s some news & notes from the unofficial mixed zone about each discipline.

Continue reading “U.S. Classic: A Look Back at Lake Placid”

Reed/Ambrulevicius: “We haven’t reached our limit”

Ice dancers Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevicius, who represent Lithuania, have both been part of the international ice dance scene for many years now. Reed began competing internationally in 2009, while Ambrulevicius’s ice dance career began in 2014. But, it’s only since the couple teamed up and started to compete together that they have gained increasing recognition from ice dance judges and fans alike. 

Continue reading “Reed/Ambrulevicius: “We haven’t reached our limit””

Lajoie/Lagha: “We want to do a good performance for the fans”

This week, Canadian ice dancers Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha will write the final chapter of their season at the 2022 ISU World Championships. The duo are hoping to put out season’s-best performances of two programs that have served them well this year: Their “Funkytown” disco rhythm dance and their signature “Birds” free dance set to the Rio soundtrack. At practice this week in Montpellier, I caught up with Lajoie and Lagha to talk about their programs and what makes them tick as a team.

Both skaters were born and grew up in the suburbs of Montreal, Quebec. Lagha said that his parents are of Algerian descent. Both started out skating singles, but Lajoie was drawn to ice dance from an early age.

“When I changed coaches at seven years old, I was training in an area where there were also ice dancers. So, since [I was] a very young age, I saw it and thought, ‘I want to do this,’” Lajoie explained. “Then they found Zach.”

‘“Her coach [also] coached in my club. And he was like: ‘Oh, I have a girl [whom] I really want you to try with.’ And so at one point I tried,” Lagha said. “And then I just kept going.”

Lajoie, 21, and Lagha, 22, have been partners for over ten years already, since 2011 (except for a six-month break in 2015). The duo see the longevity of their partnership as a bonus, as they try to make their mark in senior ice dance.

“I think it’s cool,” said Lajoie. “I see older skaters who are at the end of their career, and they’re celebrating their 10 years. And we are [just] starting to be seniors, and it has already been even longer. So I think it’s a very good advantage for us, that it’s already as long as some of the top seniors. We are very different, and I think that’s also very good for a couple, to grow together as two very different people, two different mindsets of working. It works super-well.”

Lagha agreed that their personalities are quite different.

“I’m more serious, and she’s more light-hearted. That’s pretty much a summary of it,” he said, with a smile.

Lajoie/Lagha performing their Rio free dance (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

Lagha admits that his intensity and analytical nature can make competition challenging for him. 

“I get nervous. Really, really nervous,” he said of competing. “I overthink. I love the feeling right after the competition. That’s an amazing feeling, when you skate well and have good results. That is really cool. But the day of the competition … It’s not cool,” he said wryly. “Although I try to stay in my zone, so I don’t really know what’s going on around me.” 

Lajoie has a slightly different perspective. 

“I enjoy competing, yes, for sure,” she said. “Of course, like most people, I don’t enjoy being stressed. But I like the adrenaline that I have just before a program. It’s something that I can’t find in my life, other than in competition. It’s such a special feeling, always. But just like Zach, my favorite feeling is when I’m done competing. It’s so cool, especially when you did super-good.”

Lajoie and Lagha have enjoyed a successful season so far in 2021-22, capped by a trip to their first Olympic Games in Beijing last month. Both skaters said they learned a lot about how to handle the special pressure of the Olympics at the event.

“I think the stress, the pressure, the adrenaline [of the Olympics] is so much bigger than anything else. It’s really unique,” said Lajoie. “And we skated very well. So that’s proof that, under stress or pressure, we can still perform well. That’s why I’m very glad that we went at such a young age, so [that] we practice [coping with] that stress. I think it was a good learning experience for us.”

Lagha said that the long time span of the Olympics makes it much different than other competitions. 

“Knowing that you have 13 days before the [ice dance] competition, it’s long. The competition starts in the practices. That’s where the judges see you, and that’s where they start to think. So you have to be on point at every practice,” he commented.

However, with it being their first Olympic Games, Lajoie and Lagha competed without the stress of being medal favorites.  

“It wasn’t our competition,” Lagha said. “Everyone’s got their own league. And we’re not in the big league, for now. We’re just trying to improve all the time. In our case, it’s almost like smaller competitions are more important, because that’s where we can [make] a difference in the rankings. The Olympic Games–we were thirteenth, I think. And even if we skated even better, we would still [probably] stay thirteenth. So in terms of stress, for me, it was fine. It was like a normal step.” 

Lajoie/Lagha after practice this week in Montpellier

Lajoie and Lagha do see potential for upward progress at the World Championships in Montpellier, but don’t want to make it their main focus.

“After the Olympics, there’s usually a lot of movement in the standings. And I think we have a chance now to move up the rankings,” Lagha said. “But even though we know that, it’s important not to think about this and [to] really focus on the performance. We want to perform well. This is the main goal, as usual. And there are some little technical things that we want [to achieve], also. And whatever will happen, will happen. We just want to do a really good performance for the fans. And in this, we can do something cool. Sometimes we focus in [too much] on the technical, and then that’s it. It’s over with.”

Lajoie and Lagha feel confident in the programs they’ll be showing in Montpellier. Their rhythm dance, set to “Funkytown” and two other songs, has been a fan favorite this season. It’s a fast-tempo piece that places a lot of cardio demands on the skaters. 

“I really have fun doing it, and every time I go to the practice and it’s this program, I’m happy to do it. Definitely, this program is really cool,” Lagha said. “And no, it’s not hard, because compared to a free dance, nothing is hard. For us, it’s almost–not a piece of cake, if you are talking cardio. But, because we have such a difficult free dance, and it’s mentally so hard and draining to do the free dance, the rhythm dance for us now feels not that hard. It’s hard, but not as much.” 

The couple said they’ve been happy with audiences’ reactions to their rhythm dance.

“They reacted [well] almost every time,” Lagha said of the crowd’s response. “Only the first competition they didn’t react–that was Autumn Classic. But we didn’t really perform full out. Coming back from Autumn Classic, we knew that something needed to change. And we needed to attack a lot more. Since then, every time we did it, the public reacted. So we’re going to try to do the same here in France.”

Romain Hagenauer, one of Lajoie and Lagha’s coaches at I.AM, created and choreographed both their programs this year. This is the second year that the duo are skating their bird-themed Rio free dance, set to Brazilian music. Unlike many current free dances, the Rio program is very uptempo and fast, again requiring a significant cardio effort. Lajoie and Lagha explained that they intentionally chose the program for this purpose, to help them stand out to judges and audiences. 

“Romain came up with the idea. He has always choreographed our programs,” Lajoie said. “He sent us the music, and we said yes. We hadn’t seen the movie before.”

“Because everybody’s trying to do something lyrical, we thought that this would be a good program so that people can really notice us,” Lagha explained. “So that’s why we’re doing it.”

“We love it,” Lajoie said. “But, we’re kind of excited that it’s our last one [at Worlds]. It’s been two years of very hard cardio. It’s a hard one.”

“Really, the biggest challenge [of the program] is the physical,” Lagha added. “Now, after two years, the elements are pretty much like bam-bam-bam. We do it without really thinking much. However, we always have to focus on turns and do the technical [aspect]. But it’s really automatic right now. I would say that another challenge is to get clean lines, even though the music is really fast. It’s much easier to do it when you have time–you can really extend your arm and do a really big movement. But when the music is fast, it’s a lot more messy when you try to do this. So you have to do smaller movements, but pretty precise, and it takes a lot of energy. I’d say this is one of the big challenges of our program. And also, to get connection between us two. In a program like this, it’s not really easy.”

“The music doesn’t build [to say], ‘Look at each other,’” Lajoie commented. “It’s bird-y. The other ones who are doing slower music, they can really connect. We’ve tried to work on it.” 

“It’s been a critique of this program,” Lagha acknowledged.

Still, Lajoie and Lagha have enjoyed the Rio free dance and have no regrets about taking it on.

“Maybe eventually, when we get older and more mature, we’re going to go to this lyrical style,” Lagha said. “It’s a style that, personally, I really like to do much better than the one that we’re doing now. But I think it’s necessary for our development. And I think in terms of skills, we’ve improved a lot from this free dance.”

With their season ending this week at Worlds, it will soon be time for Lajoie and Lagha to make plans for next fall. They have yet to choose music or start choreography for next season’s programs. Like other teams, they are awaiting the ISU’s announcement of next year’s rhythm dance theme and compulsory section. 

Lajoie/Lagha at NHK Trophy in November (Photo by Zhang Xiaoyu/Xinhua via Getty Images)

However, Lajoie and Lagha are already looking forward.

“I’ve started to think about lessons that we need to take,” said Lagha. “Off-ice training, and weaknesses that we need to absolutely improve for next year. I didn’t want to lose time preparing this [only] when the off-season started. We made a little game plan.” 

Lagha noted their preparations for next season are “much more complicated’ than just choosing music. 

For the next few days, though, the team’s attention will be on this year’s programs. 

“We don’t want to take our minds away from this competition,” said Lagha. 

U.S. Classic 2017: Highlights from Ladies, Men, Ice Dance & Pairs

I had a great time last weekend attending the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City! I covered the event for Figure Skaters Online. It was my first time going to U.S. Classic, and my first time attending any Challenger Series event.  Continue reading “U.S. Classic 2017: Highlights from Ladies, Men, Ice Dance & Pairs”