When I told Nancy Chacurian-Viveiros that my next interview victim was Zabato Bebe, she suggested I ask him 6.0 questions, one for every muscle in that six pack. As nice of a chesteses as it is (and it IS girl!), I just couldn't narrow it down to 6. I don't often rave about skaters. Let me stop right there - who am I kidding? I don't often rant about skaters as MUCH as I do about Zabato Bebe. From Vienna, Austria, Zabato is one of the most naturally talented and exciting skaters I've seen. He's a risk taker on the ice, isn't afraid of skating full out and has such a contagious spirit and love of performing that it's just unreal. He's competed in Young Artists Showcase, toured with World Professional Champions Anita Hartshorn and Frank Sweiding, competed internationally and stolen shows. His performances are complex, extroverted and full of transitions that would put the top men in the world to shame. Transitions, in my opinion, are supposed to look easy and make the elements flow together, not difficult.... and he constantly seems to accomplish this! It's not just the transitions, it's the explosiveness and passion in his skating that cannot be really described and done justice. It was my absolute pleasure to have chance to interview one of the most exciting skaters of our time. We talked about YAS, choreography, performance, professional skating and much, much more:
Q: You are a complete rock star on the ice! What gives you the confidence to take completely different styles of choreography and movement and deliver each with such energy and drive?
A: I don't know about being a rock star, but for me creating and performing different styles comes very naturally. While I was growing up, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to many different cultures and I was being influenced from people not only in figure skating but also in dance, art and acting. My Dad was a performer himself and my mom always encouraged me to work in a very creative way. My coaches always allowed me to experiment on the ice and to try new things that didn't necessarily bring me any points in the competitions. I believe those are the main ingredients that allow me to do the work that I'm doing today.
A: Young Artists Showcase (MKYAS4) has been an incredible experience so far. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone sometimes and forced me to come up with creative ideas. The finals will be very different for me. Being a professional figure skater, I very rarely get to perform on a full size ice rink. This will take some time for me to get used to. There are two parts to the finals. Part 1 will be "Choreographers Choice", where I will perform a piece of my choosing and Part 2 will be "Secret Talent", where I will create a piece for four other skaters. I have yet to decide between two pieces - which one I would like to do for the first part of the finals. One is safe, which means that the choreography is set. I've performed it before and I know that the audience usually responds very positive to that piece. The other has never been seen before by a live audience and it might be a little bit provocative to some viewers. So there is still a decision to be made. The second part of the finals is also very challenging for me, because I've never choreographed for four people on a full size ice rink and also the music that was given to me will force me to come up with some creative ideas. As of right now I have no clue what I am going to do.
Q: How did you come up with the choreography for your "King Of Africa" and "Rolling In The Deep" programs? Both give me chills!
A: I'm not sure if I deserve much credit for those pieces. Disney created "The Lion King", one of my favourite movies. Some DJ's created an awesome remix of that amazing soundtrack and when I was a child, my dad showed me some African dance moves. I just brought all those things together and put them onto the ice. "Rolling In The Deep" was a similar process.
Q: How did you learn the backflip and Cantilever and did they scare you in the learning process?
A: Both the Cantilever and the backflip required a lot of persistence. The hardest part was not to listen to the people who said that it was impossible, dangerous or just not worth it to learn those tricks.
Q: What is your background in (ISU) competitive skating?
A: I always enjoyed doing fun and interesting things. It wasn't always easy growing up in the competitive figure skating world. Of course I won some national an international competitions, but my real goal was always to wow the audience with something they've never seen before. Therefore, I chose the path of professional figure skating which allows me more creative freedom.
Q: What benefit is there to skaters interpreting and choreographing music and programs on their own?
A: What benefit is there to do what you enjoy doing? For me, making up choreography and allowing myself to get inspired from all different kinds of sources is just something I really enjoy. I am lucky that during my career as a principal skater, producers and choreographers allowed me and even encouraged me to bring my own influence to the production. The benefit for me is that my performances have more meaning to me and I believe the benefit for the audience is that it feels more authentic to them, which hopefully makes the whole experience more truthful and enjoyable.
Q: What skaters past and present interest you artistically and have that intangible quality where you just stop and watch?
A: One of my ultimate heroes when I was growing up was Philippe Candeloro. Seeing him on TV as a little boy inspired me to follow my creative urges on the ice. Performing in the same show with him in Qatar in February of 2013 was unquestionably a dream come true. As a professional, I look up to skaters like Kurt Browning who continues to create absolutely fantastic programs but also the group "Le Patin Libre" are one of the wonderful things that are happening in figure skating right now.
Q: I've been doing a lot of writing lately about the resurgance of interest in artistic and particularly professional (non ISU) skating. What do you hope to see as the future of professional and artistic skating?
A: I think there are a lot of very creative skaters out there who have a great potential to contribute to the professional and artistic figure skating world. There needs to be a bigger platform and more exposure for skaters who don't want to to follow the IJS system but want to create artistry on ice. Young Artists Showcase and ProSkaters' Virtual Skate Off are great ways to make your work visible to a larger audience but I'd also love to see offline, in person professional competitions reappear.
Q: What is one piece of music that you long to skate to someday? what's your favourite song right now?
A: One day I would like to create a piece where the audience is the main part of the performance and dictates the rhythm to which the skater is skating.
Q: What gives you happiness and peace when stepping on the ice?
If you've been living under a rock somewhere and aren't already completely in love with Zabato's skating, you can check out his YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/Zabatino, his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Zabato.BB, his website http://www.zabato.net or Twitter at http://twitter.com/zabatobebe.
Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.