Episode #20: Navarro & Bommentre

An interview with American ice dancers Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre. 44 minutes 4 seconds.

Thanks to Fiona McQuarrie for transcribing these interview highlights:

(K=Kim, B=Brent, A=Allison)

On their most embarrassing skating moments:

B: Is this a PG podcast? [laughs] It was my first international experience, my first junior Grand Prix. It was in France. I got all packed up for the rink, all ready to compete, my first event, and I must have had a mix-up from when I packed at home because I went to put on a pair of underwear, and they were my dad’s. You know, just this massive pair of underwear. And I was, like, 14 and I did not know what to do. Fortunately the coaches helped out. I didn’t borrow anything, but we figured it out.

K:  I was skating and I had a lot of beads on my dress, and this was the first time I was wearing this new dress. A couple of beads were flying off, and I was getting a little panicked, this was on a practice session for Sectionals. And I told my coach at the time, and she said, oh, don’t worry about it, get back out there. And more and more were falling off. So many that when our practice was over and the pair skaters came on the ice, they just looked down at the ice and were horrified at how many beads were there. And they couldn’t skate. So they had to do an ice resurface to clean up all the beads from my dress. I didn’t even want to put that dress back on because I didn’t want anyone to know that it was me that caused the whole delay in the schedule, because of the surprise Zamboni break.

B: I feel like there might have been an early morning practice where you [Kim] got sent home.

K: Aw, that was like my favorite day of skating because I got to go back home and go back to bed, because of Brent. He was of drinking age but he came in…I came in the rink and he was there before I was, and I was like, that’s weird because he’s usually not that prompt. He was there and he was in his bathrobe [laughs] because he had slept in his car for part of the night and then at the rink for part of the night because he was out late [laughs].

B: So me being super-embarrassed, I got on the ice and realized that it wasn’t such a good idea for me to skate. I couldn’t stand up by myself. So I called Robbie [Kaine, their coach] to let him know, like, it’s dangerous, I don’t feel like I can skate with Kim today, I’m gonna hurt her or something. So he gets in and very calmly just says, Kim, you go home, Brent, you stay and skate.

On attending college during their training:

K: When I competed with my last partner [Robert Shmalo] we both went to college.

B: I’ve been to a few classes and sat in a chair. I think I paid for some books [laughs].  Yeah, I was taking some classes, I took one a semester. This only started a year or two ago, and after three classes it was too much. I had to back down, it was too much of a course load for me, just with training and all the extracurricular stuff for training, plus teaching skating. There were just no nights of the week that I could do it. So I put it back on hold.

K: I had a different schedule with my previous partner. He was at NYU and then he went to law school after we started skating together. So I was skating less than I am now, so I had time for school which was great.

On their initial success as a team:

B: I think it goes back to why we started skating together. We had set some goals for ourselves in terms of performance and what we wanted to convey through our programs and our skating, and those goals weren’t placement-based. And we just really focused on that and it paid off.

K: We didn’t have any expectations. The only thing that we had to guide us is what we wanted from our skating. I think that was unique at the time because we were a new team doing it just because we wanted to and not for some specific results, because we really had no idea, and we didn’t care. I felt that I had never had the opportunity to skate like I wanted to because I had been doing so many other things my whole life. I just wanted the chance to see what would happen if I was able just to skate and be in a really healthy full-time skating environment. I think it was unique for people to see a team that just wanted to be out there, and that’s what we’re trying to hang onto. But it gets harder as you have more expectations and more pressure and more people telling you what their thoughts are on what you’re doing.

B: I think we’ve done a good job of it though. Every year we evaluate what’s going on and just try to find the programs for next year, and keep challenging ourselves. I don’t think there’s ever been a season where we’re like, all right, we were fourth at Nationals last year, next year we need to be third, so what do we need to do. I think the conversation always starts with, what direction do we want to go, where do we feel like we can grow, what can we improve upon, what did we do before that we did well and can we do it even better, how can we tweak this and really seize the moment, the opportunity we have.

On smoothly blending the elements in their programs:

B: It’s a goal that we have when we’re in the process of having things choreographed for us. That definitely is one of the things we strive for. We want the program to have continuity, so the lifts make sense, the footwork sequences make sense where they go musically, and the audience can understand that without really knowing it. They can know it but they can feel, oh yeah, that makes sense, or I get that, or it doesn’t sound abrupt or look abrupt.

K: We want them to be entertaining programs that make sense. And we’re the ones that have to do them every day so we want to enjoy doing it. I know for me, from performing so much when I was younger, when things start to seem too much like devoid of performance, it’s just not me and I don’t know what to do, maybe this program should be for someone else. It’s just not for me and it’s not my style. So it’s a goal that we have, just for different reasons.

On Brent’s luggage getting lost on the way to 2008 Worlds:

B: I thought, you know, if I have to stand out there on the ice, I will stand out there on the ice and shuffle around in sneakers and take a zero, but at least I was on the ice at Worlds and that’s all that really matters.

K: I never thought I’d be lucky enough to go to Worlds, so that was exciting, but I certainly, if I had ever imagined it, never would have imagined that our first practice at Worlds would be Brent, like, [in his backup pair of skates] doing swizzles and then gliding on one foot [laughs]. Especially as an ice dancer, because, you know, you get on and everybody acts like it’s a competition, and they’re in their full outfit. And he’s in these sweats that we bought at this store down the street, and gliding on one foot. And we’re doing every element, you know, really tiny, and then a little bigger….

B: Doing cradle lifts, and then trying to do a half-rotation, and I’m sure Kim’s thinking, so how are you going to do that with one arm? In a week?

K: And I’m like, okay. Not how I imagined it, but we’re here.

A: And with the technical callers watching you….

K: Yeah. And we swear, the swizzles are going to rack up the points [laughs].

B: G.O.E. Three letters!

K: Just you wait. We add our arms, it gets crazy.

B: It’s a surprise technique. It’s like the Trojan figure skating. We show you one thing, and then just do another!  I did all eight edges. Wow. [laughs]

On Kim writing a competition blog for Ice Network:

K: I was at first skeptical because I wasn’t sure if it was something I should be doing at a competition or not. I always thought I wouldn’t write things about skating. I’ve always been proud of my English degree as my other thing that makes me feel like a whole person besides being a skater. But actually it was really fun, and now it’s something that I can have forever from these competitions. My mom went to NHK Trophy with us to watch, and she didn’t know until David Kirby, the official, had told her, you skated here 30 years ago with a show, it was in this arena. And she said, oh, I didn’t even remember. So the moral of the story is, 30 years from now I’ll remember these competitions because I’ll have written stuff about it.

On their music choices:

B: We came to the African OD after thinking about all the possibilities for the folk dances, and strategizing about, oh, what will everybody else choose. We thought that would really set ourselves apart.

K: Again, they’re programs that we have to do every day, so we first want to pick something that we like and that we believe in. But it was so weird as having the folk dance as the genre for the OD. So we were like, let’s make the most of this and take this as an exercise in something very ‘other’ to us.

B: But it was really a challenge. I’d never really danced in a studio before, other than ballet, but I’d never done jazz before, let alone African dancing.

K: We took an African dancing class in Philadelphia and then had the instructor come to the rink. And they’re pretty dedicated in that, which was really cool. It was fun not to say, what’s the easiest thing we could get away with, and instead, what’s the hardest thing we could do. So that by the end of the season we could feel we really grew. And that was so cool because these programs that we had this year were very challenging, the Corrine Bailey Rae as well, something slower and not upbeat and happy like we normally have. So for our season, to get to go through March was really great, to have that opportunity to keep working on these programs, because they didn’t come easily or quickly.

What they like and don’t like about skating with each other:

B: Just the perspective that she brings. Very mature person, very together, very funny. And that’s good because all those things kind of offset me. I’m very immature [Kim laughs], very not funny, ridiculously serious sometimes. So it’s good. I think there’s a yin and a yang to it. There is nothing [that I don’t like]. Do you think I would actually say them? I don’t even say them to myself [laughs]. Nothing that makes me say, God, I just don’t want to go in there and skate with Kim.

K: On a serious note, I always appreciate that Brent lets me be me and he’s okay with that. I never feel like I have to act a certain way. Like I said, this is my first time just skating, and it’s nice to be able to feel like my own person and a full person, and whatever mood I’m in or whatever I say, no one makes me feel bad about that, which I really appreciate. I also like that Brent lifts me up and he doesn’t complain too much, and he pushes me around the ice and he never complains about that either. And he puts a lot of fun into our partnership, more than just the skating. He’s very honest and he communicates really well, and I appreciate that, even if I force him to [both laugh].

B: I am not the best communicator in the world.

K: But he tries, which is really nice, and I appreciate that. This is a whole different chapter, I’m a little bit older, and the skating means something different to me every time. So it’s nice to have, even though he says he’s immature, a mature approach to our skating, and I just like that he’s so on the bandwagon about that. I don’t have anything that’s my least favorite, but we are very different, and like I always say, he is the athlete in the team and I’m the artist in the team. And I don’t really want to go too fast ever, I want to know what the program’s about, and he wants to skate around fast.

B: Somebody’s the thinker, somebody’s the doer…

K: I like to think about the meaning of life when we’re doing things, and he wants to know the meaning of the rocker when we’re doing the rocker.

B: I come in late…I smell sometimes…

K: But I don’t get mad about it [laughs].

On their future goals:

K: Everyone wants to keep improving, but we want to keep true to what we started off doing, which was not being too results-oriented, but skating for ourselves and trying to make the most out of every season, even if it’s a year you can make Worlds or it’s an Olympic year, or if you want to place better — it doesn’t matter, no season’s different from another. And to take the opportunity to make the most out of our programs. We don’t have that many experiences to bring to the table as a team, so we need to keep mixing it up.

About the Author
Yup, I’m a skating fan. But I’m a skater too. I compete nearly every year in the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships, and am always thrilled to see my other skating buddies there. In my real life I work in marketing for brands that make positive changes in the world, and a mom of two rambunctious boys.

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