“Je Suis Malade” isn’t just music. It’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje’s music.
When anybody else skates to it, Weaver and Poje automatically come to mind. You see Weaver and Poje. Not somebody else.
When they created it during the 2011-2012 season, they breathed it. They lived it. It was magic. It made them. It was their signature piece.
On Thursday, on the eve of Skate Canada International in this flat prairie town, Weaver and Poje created the ripple of the day – a mountain really – when they revealed they were setting aside their current free dance to Spartacus and bringing back “Je Suis Malade” for the Olympic season.
They just had to.
Everywhere, people are going: “YES!”
‘It still lives in us,” Weaver said Thursday after a practice.
We last saw “Spartacus” at the Autumn Classic. The response was lukewarm. It was medium. It’s not what you want during an Olympic season. You want HOT. And you want it now.
“I think in an Olympic season, you have to be out of the gate, stating your case, especially in ice dance,” Weaver said. “There is no time to persuade anybody, including ourselves. We are taking the ice now, knowing that we have the absolute best program for Kaitlyn and Andrew. No doubt about it. And that’s the confidence we need going into this Olympic season.”
Of course it won’t look the same. Weaver and Poje aren’t the same skaters they were six years ago when they stopped traffic and made people weep with this heartfelt routine. Rules have changed, too.
“We had to [make changes],” Weaver said.
“We’ve grown since we did the program last, so there were rules changes, but aside from that, we’ve changed as skaters and made some things [in the original routine] not suited for us that we want to express in our techniques and really just try to get the essence of the program,” Poje said. “And keep everything we love but still show off all our strengths and show the progress that we have made over those seasons.”
For example, some footwork rules have changed. Now “Footwork B” is much more open. Years ago, the ISU required cascades of one-foot sections. Now the rules are much more lenient about the positions and one-foot sections. “Back then we were all tied up doing this footwork, so now we’re able to express the music better,” Weaver said.
“In fact the program is better than it was before,’” she said. “We are better. We are wiser. We are more mature and I think that the six years of life that we’ve lived since then is perfectly funneled into this program.”
Already last summer, some fans were suggesting that they go back to “Je Suis Malade” for the Olympic season. And Weaver and Poje listen to their fans. After all, “Je Suis Malade” was a suggestion from a fan in the first place.
But Weaver and Poje had loved that season so much with that routine, they wanted to close the door on it, with fond memories. They had used it with glee partly because that season they had performed it in so many francophone settings: Grand Prix Final in Quebec City, national championships in New Brunswick, world championships in Nice.
“No, let’s push ourselves to try something new,” Weaver said.
But the seed was planted.
After Autumn Classic, coach Nikolai Morozov looked at them and said: “I think you need to do [Je Suis Malade.”
They said okay.
“We didn’t fight it,” Weaver said.
They had had a few notes about Spartacus from their team, their coaches, some judges, some fans. It was the general lay of the land with the reaction to this routine.
Weaver and Poje had to head back to Toronto anyway, planning on making many changes to Spartacus with choreographer Lori Nichol.
And they skated “Je Suis Malade” and “Spartacus” back to back for her. And Nichol agreed. They had to do Malade. “It was another nail in the coffin for that program,” Weaver said.
They loved Spartacus. It just hadn’t totally developed. And there is no time to make it grow into what they need. Spartacus hasn’t disappeared totally. It will return sometime. Just not this season.
So will they dust off their old costumes? They thought about this. “We pulled them out of the closet,” Weaver said. “And went UGH.”
They were old and sweaty and the colours had drained from them.
So they are designing new ones.
“Besides, I think we’ve matured a lot and found our real image and our aesthetic, so we redesigned them, keeping the same vision,” Weaver said.
We may not notice a difference.
“It was honestly a labour of love,” Weaver said. “It was fun and exciting and hard and challenging but these past three weeks have been very rewarding.”
Sometimes, Weaver still finds herself thinking: “Did we really go back to that program? What? Were we crazy?
“But then we get out on the ice and it all makes sense.”