Feature | Figure Skating

How to perfect performance: A conversation with top figure skating choreographer Benoit Richaud

Applying an artistic touch to any sport is desirable, but in figure skating it’s essential. World-renowned choreographer Benoit Richaud shares his secrets.

By Ed Knowles ·

Benoit Richaud is in demand.

The French figure skating choreographer has helped stars like Olympic bronze medallist Takahashi Daisuke , 2019 Grand Prix Final winner Kihira Rika, and U.S. national champion Bradie Tennell.

His original ideas have captivated audiences around figure skating. His words of advice are applicable to anyone looking for an extra bit of artistry in their work.

Spread your love and enjoy every moment - Choreographer Benoit Richaud

“I always say that it's very important to listen to your feelings. I keep repeating that,” Benoit said in an interview on the Olympic Channel Podcast.

“In your life, there [are] doors and let's not be scared to open this door, go in a way, and have an experience.

“I think, [that is] life giving us, like, direction. And we have to take it.”

The questions and answers below have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Olympic Channel (OC): Normally your job would mean meeting people in person. Now, you are giving feedback online due to the pandemic. How has this affected your work?

Benoit Richaud (BR): The interesting thing is that [online] works. It's not what I love. It is not the best. But, in the situation we are living, this is the best because there is no other solution.

The choreographer, has a special place with a skater. We are there, but not all the time, and I will say in a way that we are giving them a little bit freshness here [and there]. We work five times during the season, six times, maybe more. We create with the skater, something a little bit different. And so I think for the skaters, [we] miss that.

But, in a way, I [have also] never [been] so connected to my skaters. And now I'm seeing most of my skaters online every day. When we need to fix something now we do it. And I think we didn't realise in the past.

OC: You took a lot of inspiration growing up from watching classic figure skating performances on YouTube. How much do you think the internet has affected figure skating performances?

BR: I really do believe that social media is a good thing because it connects people. I always think about the people who don't have access to things and just to feel that they can learn or they can hear it and not just in sports, you know, in many, many different disciplines.

That's why also I started now to create Carte Blanche Labs. It's something [that] specialises in figure skating, with music, with video. And the idea is to share in the love of figure skating [to the] maximum.

I have an amazing team who work with me… I think about all of these people who don’t have [easy] access. And then because of because you offer them a very good video, very good content, then people can learn.

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OC: It’s a massive year for figure skating with Beijing 2022 around the corner. What do you think about the upcoming Olympics in China?

BR: I think looks amazing. I think China are going to prepare that really well. And they're going to make sure you have an amazing experience, which is something very important. I mean, you always hear some people who say, ‘Oh, the Olympic Games are not going to happen.’ I don't think so. They're just going to be maybe a different Olympic Games.

I think we're going to have amazing performances from all kinds of sports. And, because high level sportspeople are smart people, they understand the situation. They're going to know how to how to manage this preparation and how to focus. I'm not going to say it's going to be easy.

That's going to be challenging, but this is the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games is challenging. [Sometimes] you're seeing these people who are [favourites] to win and then, boom, [another] person wins. That's what makes the sport so exciting.

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OC: You have used an eclectic range of music in the performances you have worked on. The classics are there but also some surprises like Ivett Toth’s use of the rock band AC/DC at PyeongChang 2018. What is your taste in music?

BR: I like every kind of music. I like quality. For me, that’s what is important. I don't think I think if you like music, you can say, ‘No, I don't like Brazilian music' or 'I don't like classical music’.

I'm really connected to new music. I don't want to be that kind of person that, that when you are 40, 50, you just listen to the old music. And I already see around me so many friends, and they are just they are always stuck in their time. And I appreciate all the music that my kids are listening, you know, and they actually make me discover a lot of things.

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OC: There’s no way around it – 2020 has been a challenging year. What would you like to see more of in the world 2021?

BR: I think sometimes people forget to say what they feel. Sometimes life is so short and unpredictable... Life is going so fast that there is no time to lose. I said this to [U.S. National champion] Bradie Tennell. I said, ‘Do you know how many more summers you're going to have in your life?' I said, ‘How many more winters you're going to have?’

‘Maybe you cannot be precise – maybe 60 or 70, if you are lucky. So, I want you to enjoy every time you look at the sun, every time you're going to step on the ice’.

So, just spread your love. And enjoy every moment.

Listen to the full interview now on the Olympic Channel Podcast, also available wherever you get your podcasts.

Photos of Benoit Richaud by Olivier Brajon