Tuesday, 28/1/2020 | : : UTC-8
Skate Today

Italy Fields Another Strong Dance Team

Isabella Pajardi and Stefano Caruso

Italy’s Isabella Pajardi, 20, and Stefano Caruso, who will turn 22 in April, are the latest in a line of strong ice dance teams to come from that country. The couple, who placed ninth at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships and seventh at the 2007-08 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final, moved to seniors this season.

Their goal for the season was to compete on the Grand Prix Series and at Europeans, both of which they accomplished. Later, they hope to compete at Worlds and the Olympic Games.

Pajardi and Caruso placed fifth at the Golden Spin in Zagreb in their senior debut, then tenth at their first ISU Grand Prix, the NHK Trophy. After winning the bronze medal in senior dance in Italy, the couple placed 16th at their first ISU championships, the 2009 European Figure Skating Championships. That gave Italy the best team finish in ice dancing at Europeans, ahead of both France and Russia.

Later in the season, they finished ninth at the 2009 Winter University Games in Harbin, China.

Pajardi started skating at the age of four because her mother was a speed skater. She won first place in ladies under the age of nine in singles, but then started dancing at eleven. “I started to do ice dancing because I did not want to continue in singles skating,” she said. “I like dancing for the emotions that I can express now.”

Caruso didn’t start to skate until he was nine. “I went with my cousin to an ice rink and after that day I asked my mother to start that sport,” he said. He never competed in singles and started dancing right away.

The couple started ice dancing together in 2000. “My coach told me about a tryout with a boy coming from Rome and I said ‘OK, let’s try, if it doesn’t work I will stop skating’,” Pajardi recalled.

“I moved from Rome to Milan, because the ice rink in which I used to train (Mezzaluna) was closing in 2000 and I was searching for a new partner while she was quitting the single experience,” Caruso added.

“She skates with her heart,” Caruso said. “You can notice that only when she’s practicing alone with the music at high volume. That’s the most important thing for me. I believe that skating is a part of our life and so you must do it not only as a sport but with heart. She’s also a great worker. I have never had problems with her if I wanted to do more on or off the ice. She trusts me and I trust her.”

“Stefano’s a volcano of energy,” Pajardi stated. “I love how he skates and this is the most important thing, how we skate together. After so many years he knows how to carry me up when I’m sad or how to make me skate at my best.”

“When we teamed up, we started with Raffaella Cazzaniga,” Caruso said, “but after a few months my coaches, Valter Rizzo and Brunilde Bianchi also moved to Milan so we started to work with them. We also did two seasons (2005-2006 and 2006-2007) with Paola Mezzadri and Alessandro Tortmena, after that we restarted training with Valter Rizzo and Brunilde Bianchi.”

Pajardi and Caruso split their training time between Simsbury, Connecticut and Zanica, a little city near Bergamo, Italy. They are trained by Valter Rizzo, Brunilde Bianchi and Luca Mantovani in Italy and Shae-Lynn Bourne and Mathew Gates in Simsbury.

“We used to practice at Simsbury in July but it depends,” Caruso said. “Usually when we need to go, we just go there. We went there for the first time during the Easter period of 2007 for two weeks because we wanted to improve our skating skills.”

Six days a week, the dancers train from 9.30 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon and then work out. Three times a week, they also skate another two hours in the evening. “Sunday is our day off , but our coach never gives us that day, only sometimes,” Caruso said.

They both take ballet class for an hour each week. Pajardi started ballet at five, while Caruso did not begin until he was 13.

They also run almost every day. “I usually run six days a week for an hour, usually in the morning before the first practice,” Pajardi said. “I like running while is raining because it keeps my mind free of any thought,” Caruso added.

The dancers both prefer to skate to dramatic and emotional music. Shae-Lynn Bourne choreographed the couple’s dances for 2008-09. For their original dance, the couple skated to “Baciami Piccina” by Ray Gelato and “New Orleans Blues” by Ella Fitzgerald.

“First of all, it is Italian music,” Caruso said. “The original version was made up by Alberto Rabagliati and it was the first swing music in Italy. It also has a good rhythm and it’s funny to dance to it.”

Their free program music included Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”, “Art of War” by Vanessa Mae and “Un Giorno Per Noi” by Josh Groban. “We wanted to do that music for three years,” Pajardi said. “Also because we feel like Romeo and Juliet sometimes.”

For show programs, the dancers are doing a jive to “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis. “It was our original dance in 2003,” Caruso said. “Stefano Atti, our ballroom coach, and Valter Rizzo choreographed it.”

Music is a passion for Caruso. “I had this passion since I was ten, Caruso said. “I always have all the new songs and I like to be on time. At my 18th birthday all my friends gave me as a present the plate for the DJ and after that I started practicing. I also worked as a DJ on Saturday night in a disco pub.”

“With my best friend, Stefano, we built without any help in my car a big sound system with DVD player, iPod connection, Playstation 2, computer and Internet connection, video recorder and camera. Now all the cars have the iPod connection but in 2006 I think I was the first. It took like a week but we had a great time together.”

“I listen to all kinds of music too, but my favorite is jazz music,” Caruso stated. “My favorite singers are Michael Buble, Adriano Celentano and Frank Sinatra.”

Off ice, Pajardi also listens to all types of music. Her favorite singers are Robbie Williams and Ligabue.

Other than listening to music, Pajardi likes watching dramatic movies and thrillers, writing and reading philosophy and poetry. “I think English poetry has something magic,” she said. “It’s alive and at the same time it describes realistically and deeply powerful feelings, a sorrow,a great love or just a smile. I like writing poetry, but I’m just a beginner. I can tell I feel myself a little bit like Joyce’s Ulysses ‘for always roaming with a hungry heart’.”

For other sports, both skaters also played basketball and went swimming when they were younger, and Caruso played soccer. Pajardi now skis for fun.

Caruso said that he does “whatever is fun and relaxing. “I used to go during the weekend with my friend across Italy to discover places in which you can eat (agritourism).

Pajardi and Caruso have both graduated from high school, where literature and philosophy were among their favorite subjects. Both are now studying at university. Caruso is majoring in languages and foreign literature, while Pajardi is studying political science.

Both skaters hope to continue working in the skating world after they finish competing. Caruso wants to be involved in event organizing as well as being a coach and a choreographer.

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