by Liz Leamy
(19 June 2012) Pasquale Camerlengo, the 2012 Professional Skaters Association Paul McGrath Choreographer of the Year award recipient, has become known as one of the hottest creative commodities of the sport today and with perfectly good reason.
Last season, the former Italian ice dance champion and Olympic contender created podium-worthy programs for some major contenders including Daisuke Takahashi, the 2012 Japanese World silver medallist, Nathalie Pechelat and Fabian Bourzat of France, the 2012 World dance bronze medalists, Alissa Czisny, who was second at the 2012 Nationals, Adam Rippon, the 2012 national silver medallist and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donahue, the dance team who placed third at the 2012 Nationals.
Camerlengo, who is based at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, has navigated his way to the pinnacle of the domestic and world competitive rungs due to his keen artistic understanding and excellent business acumen.
At the same time, he has a refreshing innocence that was glaringly apparent during his acceptance speech for the prestigious choreography honor at the PSA awards ceremony in Boston last month.
“I don’t know what to say,” he told the crowd at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. “Thank you so much to everyone for believing in me.”
Believing in Camerlengo seems to be rather easy, especially in noting his successful track record.
Back in 1993, Camerlengo (who was fifth at the 1992 Olympics with Stefania Calegari) began working as a coach and choreographer. His first foray into the latter realm turned out to be a premonition for his later success, as he had been asked by the late Carlo Fassi, the iconic coach who worked with Peggy Fleming, the 1968 Olympic champion, Dorothy Hamill, the 1976 Olympic gold medalist and John Curry, the deceased 1976 British Olympic titlist, to do his skater’s programs in Milan, Italy.
During the millennium, Camerlengo had moved to Delaware and became married to Anjelika Krylova, the Russian two-time World ice dance champion. The couple had two children, Stella and Anthony, in 2005 and 2007, respectively.
In 2006, Camerlengo and his family relocated to the motor city where he really began to thrive.
There, he churned out many exceptional programs, including some for Isobel Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France, the 2008 World titlists and Marie France Dubrueil and Patrice Lauzon, the 2006 and 2007 Canadian World silver medallists, among others.
Along the way, Camerlengo also joined forces with Audrey Weisiger, the Olympic and World coach from Fairfax, Virginia, and became involved with her popular Grassroots to Champions team, a group of top-rated professionals who travel around the country training and cultivating skaters.
During his acceptance speech in Boston, Camerlengo made a point to thank Weisiger. “I would like to thank one special person, Audrey Weisiger, who brought me to this country,” he said.
In his speech, Camerlengo also cited the significance of choreography. “Choreography is such as personal gift of how you see skating,” he remarked.
Camerlengo said a good competitive program is all about adhering to certain principles and explained how there are no charts in choreography. Rather, it is “a chord, an emotion or something that touches people.”
Camerlengo, who spoke about choreography to a standing-room only crowd at the PSA Conference in Boston last month, said choreographers ought to be clear on what they want to say or do for the skater (or skaters) in between elements when creating a program. They also should be clear about all of the rules.
“Programs now are very demanding, skaters have to perform from beginning to end,” he said. “They need stamina and quality of technique so they shouldn’t be too affected by choreography.”
Camerlengo said music is the most important and difficult aspect of putting together a program and explained how once the proper music is chosen, “half the work is done.”
“With music, you have a vision,” said Camerlengo. “The first thing is to really know the skater, what they feel and what they would like to do.”
He used the film score from “Titanic” to illustrate the music-decision process. A program with this music, he said, would have to revolve around the story of the tragic sinking of the ship and the loss of more than a thousand people, which is a sad and delicate theme. At the same time, it would be best for a pair or dance team since the film involves a love story.
“It is important to think of how you want to present the concept of music,” he said. “Think about the skater’s personality and their technical skills.”
Music editing is another paramount aspect of effective choreography. Camerlengo recommended that coaches and choreographers be directly involved with editors who understand the technical elements since they need to be placed in synch with the rhythms and nuances of the music.
“I have a guy who can put music together in a way that matches the elements of the skaters,” he said. “It is a huge help that he understands the elements.”
Once a program is created, skaters should be able to execute the technical elements in exact accordance with the music. “There is nothing worse than seeing things not done on the music and nothing more beautiful than hitting the beats on the music,” he said. “When a skater his a jump on the music it’s like ‘wow’ and the marks are usually good even if the jump isn’t perfect.”
Power also plays a paramount role in choreography since acceleration of transitions translates into good overall ice coverage, which is key.
“The transitions should be as intricate as possible,” he said. “Skaters need to transfer all of their turns, steps and edges into power and speed so their programs have a global feel.”
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