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iSKATE Magazine

1 June 2010

The making of an Olympic
gold medal winning program

According to skating music designer, Hugo Chouinard, “Putting together music, it’s a bit like creating a small Hollywood-style film. There is a story to be told in a limited time and it must have suspense, a dramatic climax, a triggering factor, quiet moments, action and a denouement. The spectator must never be bored, nor above all be distracted by a mistake in the music editing. In order for the emotion to be conveyed, the music and performance must be a perfect match/in perfect alignment.”


Yu-Na Kim’s James Bond-themed program, a collaboration between Hugo and Canadian choreographer David Wilson, is exemplary of this philosophy.

Says Hugo, “In the case of Yu-Na’s short program, David asked for the music from James Bond movies. It was a very interesting and unusual theme especially for an Olympic year…but it can also be very tacky! I know Yu-Na’s style well because I have worked for her since 2006 and I knew that she needed a version with character and charisma, above all…something that had never been heard.”

David explains, “The ‘Bond girl’ piece is probably a perfect example of how fantastic he is. When the idea came about, I called him and asked him to find me everything known to man that’s been created that’s instrumental Bond.”


Specifically, David notes, “We didn’t want to sit back and listen to the James Bond theme for three minutes.”


“After two days of research,” says Hugo, “I found a wonderful double album by the City of Prague Philharmonic, with enormous potential for choreography, which I sent to David for feedback.”


Says David, “There were 3-4 tracks from every Bond film. Some of them were instrumental arrangements on the particular theme of that particular Bond movie, others were arrangements taken from soundtrack music. There were lots of delicious ins and outs.”


“On his flight back from the PSA conference in Orlando,” Hugo continues, “David listened to the 59 pieces and sent me a list of his preferred sections.”

Hugo began his musical design on 25th May 2009: “I isolated his 29 favorite parts to obtain 10 minutes of music bits extracted from 10 pieces. I began by creating the transitions between sections to create a Version 1, that was about 5 minutes long. This was an intensive process of brainstorming and experimentation. We tried to create interesting combinations; I arranged the transitions and we discussed it. I literally invented the bridges connecting the parts. We went back and forth with the versions, until we were both convinced and satisfied.”


By the next day, they were working on Version 8. “We completely changed the introduction to accentuate the suspense,” says Hugo. “At that point, we had 3:07 of music. We were getting truly excited about the results.”


“With the IJS, strategic placement of the elements is now essential and the music must take into account the elements,” notes Hugo. “Yu-Na’s James Bond was particularly well planned. Listening to the music again, you can see that in the music used for the spiral and footwork sequences. That is not by accident! So, especially for world-class skaters, we plan the music taking into account the placement of the elements and the choreographer’s plan.”


Another 14 hours later, Version 9 was down to 2:50 and ready to test on the ice. “I continued to tweak minor details until 23rd September,” he continues, “By then, the elements coincided completely precisely with the music.”


For the final edit, five musical pieces were used. Thirteen versions were created and about 40 transitions were required. Yu-Na first presented the program in October 2009 at the Trophée Eric Bompard, winning the segment by 16.44 points. The program went on to set a new ISU world record for the short program at the Olympics with a total segment score of 78.50.