Australian ice dancers Maria and Evgeni Borounov made their international debut at the 2006 Four Continents Championships, finishing 14th. The married couple, who were second in senior dance in Australia for the 2005-06 season, hope it was the first of many competitions. Maria, 23 and Evgeni, 26, train in Perth on the far western side of Australia, far from the rest of the world’s ice dancing community.
“We’re isolated,” Maria said. “So we just put our heads down and train. We’re not involved in the politics. But we have no real support in our area and no other top skaters to train with so it gets a little lonely. When we’re in Russia, we learn so much from the other couples. They are so nice and so supportive. They help us even when there are no coaches there. When we’re in Australia, they write us and encourage us. We think of them and it helps us to continue to work harder.”
Evgeni said he began skating when he was four, “because I’m Russian.” Until he was eleven, he competed in singles and had all the jumps up to the double axel. Then he was invited to do dance by coach Gennadi Akkermann, who was training Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh. He began skating with Svetlana Kulikova and competed with her for about four years. The couple was scheduled to compete for Lithuania at Junior Worlds in 1994, but was withdrawn by the Lithuanian Federation 24 hours before the event because they didn’t want any Russians skating for Lithuania. In 1999, Borounov immigrated to Australia after a coach came to Russia looking for a partner for an Australian dancer, but the girl quit skating soon after.
Maria didn’t begin to skate until she was eleven. “I was a very sad child,” she recalled. “I wasn’t good at anything. Then I went skating and it made me happy. I felt good about myself and started getting straight A’s in school. I became a different person. It changed my life. I knew I wasn’t going to be a top figure skater because I was good at the artistic part, but not good at jumps. I thought I would just stay in Australia and try to do my best. When I was 16, I dislocated my knee and was off ice for a year. When I came back, there was a new coach, Andrei Filipov. I asked him to do dance, but there weren’t any partners, so I kept skating alone. I met Evgeni in 2000 and we were married in 2002, then I had a bad collision on the ice and hurt my knee again so I couldn’t take off from that leg.”
“When I could skate again, I started dancing with Evgeni,” she continued. “He had to coach me through all of the tests from elementary through senior dance. We did it in a year. Then last year, we went to Russia to work with Evgeni’s old coaches, Elena Kustarova and Svetlana Alekseeva. We stayed as long as we could, then came home to train in Australia. We send his coaches videos from Australia and they try to help us.” In Russia, they trained for four hours a day, six days a week with two hours a day of off ice training.
The couple selects the music for their programs. Their original dance music included a samba to “Sway” by Norman Gimbel and Pablo Beltran Ruiz and a rhumba to “Beautiful Maria of My Soul” by Robert Kraft and Arne Glimcher. “Sway was on a Michael Buble CD that came out the year before,” Evgeni said. “We got the single because we thought no one else would have it. I did all the cuts for the OD to make it a little bit fancy. The rhumba is from the Mambo Kings soundtrack. We chose it because Maria and I are in love and thought it would fit us.”
Their free dance music is from the soundtrack of the movie, “Plunkett and MacLeane” and includes “Ball”, “Business”, “Hanging” and “Escape”. “We saw that Craig Armstrong was the composer for the movie,” Evgeni said. “So we bought the soundtrack. It’s just like our dramatic style. What we like most is telling a story, not like in singles where it’s jump after jump after jump. We want our programs to be enjoyable to watch, not just elements.” Elena Kustarova, daughter of Svetlana Alekseeva, choreographed the programs. “We needed to have additional input to do the choreography,” Maria said. “She has a good eye.”
One of the moves that they are most proud of is their counterbalance. “It’s our signature move that we try to do in all our programs,” Maria said. “It took a lot of hours of trial and error and many falls on our heads to make it, but we hope it’s something no one else has done. We hope it will get people’s attention.”
Evgeni teaches skating to children to help finance their training costs. Maria is at university studying justice studies and business law. Meanwhile, the couple is staying with her mother as they train. Evgeni graduated with a degree as a professional nurse in Russia, but since his degree isn’t accepted in Australia, he’s considering going back to school to study computers and music. “I want to study something I can use,” he said. “I’d like to go into software creation or music production.”
In their off time, they like to walk around in the parks and go to the movies. They are both big animal lovers and have two cats. “We spoil them to death,” Maria said. “We want to be animal rescuers and have a big collection of animals later.”