Figure skaters come and go, some grab titles only to disappear a year or two later. Sometimes the only goal is to win a national title and then to leave the sport altogether. Very few skaters actually find any kind of longevity in the often fickle and extremely competitive sport and even less actually become household names, spending decades on the ice. There is a handful of skaters that are considered figure skating royalty and Ekaterina "Katia" Gordeeva certainly does find herself leading the way.
Gordeeva's career can easily be divided into two equally successful parts. In 1982 at the age of 11 years old, she was first paired up with Sergei Grinkov. Together they amassed two Olympic Gold Medals, four World Championship titles, three World Professional Championships and various other medals. More importantly, they married in 1991 and had a daughter named Daria in 1992. They toured professionally with Stars On Ice, Scott Hamilton's tour created for the most elite and entertaining skaters, and considered the tight-knit group to be like family. In November of 1995, Gordeeva and Grinkov were in Lake Placid, New York, rehearsing for the upcoming Stars On Ice tour when he suffered a deadly heart attack while on the ice. Gordeeva and Grinkov are to this day considered one of the very best pair teams of all time.
In February of 1996, Gordeeva bravely returned to the ice, this time as a solo skater. Fans of the sport threw all of their support behind her and it really was like watching a flower open. She has spent nearly 20 years taking the ice as a soloist and more than ten of those years have still been spent performing with Stars on Ice. Gordeeva has since remarried and she and Olympic Gold Champion Ilia Kulik also have a 13-year-old daughter. She is back to performing with Stars on Ice this season and is thrilled to be a part of their brand new "Dancing for Joy" Tour.
Music Times was able to steal a few minutes of Gordeeva's time recently to discuss Stars on Ice and life as a busy mom.
Music Times: Are you surprised that after all of these years, Stars on Ice continues to invite you back to tour with them?
Ekaterina Gordeeva: I was actually very surprised this year that they asked me to do the show. I mean, I'm around and I do several shows a year but when they asked me for the tour I was really excited about it. Skating with them (SOI) is wonderful. I've skated with Evan Lysacek, Ryan Bradley, Tanith Belbin, Ben Agosto and Joannie Rochette all on this tour before so it's very good to be back. I actually am the oldest one here but it's still is very comfortable touring with them.
MT: How do you manage to juggle doing the tour with a busy family life now too?
EG: The tour is only ten cities this year and so I don't leave the house for more than ten days. If it was a 60 or 70 city show then I'd have to say no to doing it but this year it's actually perfect. It's an easy and comfortable schedule for me. My youngest (Elizaveta) misses me and all, but she's 13 now and has school and can deal with dad (Ilia Kulik) all by herself now (laughing). I used to miss the longer tour because back then doing 40 or 50 cities was my life and I did ten years of that back-to-back. Time changed things and even physically I'm not sure that I could go through with 60 cities again (laughing). We just did 4 ten hour days of crazy rehearsals in Lake Placid and I came back home and I needed like 3 days to recover. Usually I'd only need like half of a day but this time I needed more time to rest (laughing).
MT: Is it hard for you to still return to Lake Placid for those tour rehearsals after losing Sergei there so many years ago?
EG: It brings a lot of different memories and emotions back for me. There's a lot of different energy in that building. Actually I've always skated really well there, it's like something helps me on the ice there and it really feels like home. There are some not so great memories for me there. But this year I was lucky enough to bring both of my daughters there with me to rehearsals. So again, we were able to make some more good memories. To be all together there was just really nice. It's a great place to go and visit, but I don't know that I'd want to be there if not for doing Stars on Ice.
MT: Has the love of pair skating faded at all for you?
EG: I've adjusted to skating alone but I'll always feel more comfortable and love pair skating. I thought I might lose the love but instead I think it just grows even more. My heart will always be in pair skating. I do a lot of partnering with Patrick Chan this year for Stars on Ice. It's cool because he's a great skater and has experience in skating with a partner. We have a part together in a tango piece that also features Meryl Davis and Charlie White, plus Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto. It's a lot of pressure to be together on the ice with these other dance teams but it's really a lot of fun and those are some of my favorite moments of the show.
MT: Tell me about "Dancing for Joy".
EG: We have a lot of skaters this year that have experience in skating in real production numbers. So it's not just an exhibition show, but there are group numbers that are professionally done. Jeff Buttle choreographed all of the numbers for SOI this year and he has put a lot of difficult steps and transitions in the numbers. Since we have three ice dance teams (Davis and White, Belbin and Agosto and The Kerrs) it made a lot of sense to include dance steps and moves from the regular dance world too. The opening number this year is by Gershwin and Jeff is so musical that on each beat of the music someone is always doing something. My first number is from Les Miserables, "I Dreamed a Dream". I fell in love with the song and it really suits me I think. The second number is called "Sentimental" and it's kind of an Argentine Tango which lets me show off my dance side when I do it. It was made especially for SOI.
MT: What should people heading to their very first SOI Tour know?
EG: People need to know that all of the skaters on SOI are really excited to perform our new show. We all really love skating and it's our pleasure to show the fans what we can do. We're happy if we can motivate people or inspire them. I really love all of our fans and that's who I think of when I skate. I'm really thankful for the years of them supporting me. I'm not sure how much longer I'll be out there performing in shows like this one, but know that when I am, I'm loving every minute of it.
While Stars on Ice isn't playing in as many cities as it did last year, there's still plenty of time to check out Katia Gordeeva and the rest of the cast in several venues. Check out SOI's official site for dates and ticket info for their "Dancing for Joy" Tour!