Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani are an American ice dance team, the reigning US champions and recently won the silver at the 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships. They are also brother and sister who entertain their fans with their Shib Sibs videos. Maia & Alex will be joining an impressive roster of other American skaters for the 2016 Stars on Ice tour, which opens April 15th in Hershey, PA. We were happy to get to talk to them about skating, Stars on Ice and Frozone!
(04/18/16 This post contains updated photos from The Stars on Ice 2016 tour. The text remains the same.)
Kari: Maia and Alex, this season has been amazing! We’ve loved watching you guys. This has been one of the best seasons of figure skating I think I’ve ever seen and you guys were a huge part of it.
Alex Shibutani: Thanks
Kari: What have been some of the most special moments for you this season?
Maia Shibutani: We’ve been incredibly lucky that over the past season, we’ve had lots of incredible moments all over the world. The standouts would have to be winning our first national championship, first Four Continents championship and also just skating as well as we did and wining the silver medal in World Championships in Boston.
Alex Shibutani: I think our skating shows itself in a new way this year. It’s reached a new level and we’re very excited about getting back to work and getting ready for next year.
RJ: Your “Fix You” free dance in particular was so amazing. What made you guys pick that particular piece of music.
Alex Shibutani: Every year we try to explore different styles. The goal has always been to be the very best team that we can possibly be. The long term goal is the 2018 Olympics and that kind of feels like that’s right around the corner at this point, We’d gotten a lot of great feedback from an exhibition that we did that was choreographed by Peter Tchernyshev. We really loved the song “Fix You.” It had a lot of personal meaning. Obviously that song is very emotional for a lot of people. I think that was a big part of our success, working with Peter and we’ve grown a lot individually and as a team. And as artists and we’ve become much more involved in the creative process. So it’s been really a bunch of things, but the program has been really special and we’re excited with how well it went this year.
Kari: I literally cannot watch that program without crying. It is so beautiful. We have a little toddler who loves figure skating. A lot of times he’ll try and skate along with people. When he watches you guys, he’s mesmerized. We can say “Hey G the Shibutanis are on” and he’ll look like “Where? Where’s a Shibutani? When we told him today that Mommy and Daddy were going to get to talk to the Shibutanis, he was trying to figure out if you hiding behind the shelf. He was looking around like he was thinking, “Where are they?”
Alex Shibutani: That’s very sweet! Let him know we appreciate the support.
Kari: I will. He even physically responds to the program when we watch it. When you all would hit the twizzles he would just go crazy. It was so amazingly powerful. It’s been a joy to watch. Thank you for doing what you do.
Maia Shibutani: Thank you so much. That means so much to us because we’ve been putting in so much hard work over our whole career and it just feels like we’ve reached a whole new level of maturity; a new phase in our career.
Alex Shibutani: We’re very excited about what we’re going to continue to show and develop. We feel like we’re on a really just scratching the surface with this and our short dance as well.
Kari: You guys have had some great performances throughout your career. We’ve always been fans. What are some of your personal favorites? A program, whether it was a short dance, a free dance or exhibition, what are some things that have been your favorites that were almost hard to let go of?
Maia Shibutani: I think the unique thing about figure skating is that you get to see a routine develop over an entire season. Since we’ve made such a conscious effort to explore, by the time that we’ve trained the whole season, we’re ready to take the next step. So as far as where we’ve been, since we’re so close to this previous season it’s easy to say that we had an amazing time performing this season’s programs the most.
Alex Shibutani: We’re enjoying this season a lot. We’re enjoying performing, gaining maturity and experience. It really is about the performance and the way we feel out on the ice. We’re not so worried about results. We’re not worried about anything else besides giving the audience a great show and we do get judged for the hard work that Maia and I and our whole team has put in. A lot of people work hard for us and support us to make sure we’re prepared for our competitions. But like Maia said, I don’t think we long to skate to any particular program because ice skating is work, you have to continue come up with new material, you have to continue to show growth and improvement. That’s part of the game. Obviously, our programs this year are very special, but there have been many programs throughout our career that have played critical roles in our progression that have brought us to that point.
RJ: Speaking of performing for fans, you guys are performing on the Stars on Ice tour coming up. How exciting is that?
Maia Shibutani: It’s incredibly exciting. You grew up knowing about Stars on Ice! This is going to be our first US tour. After the Olympics we went on the Stars on Ice Japan tour but really to have the opportunity to perform for audiences across the country is really exciting and it’s a fantastic cast so we’re ready to get going!
Alex Shibutani: It’s a fantastic opportunity to perform for long time fans of the sport, and also attract new eyes to the sport. It’s a really fun group. We’ve been skating with a lot of people from the cast and we’ve known them as we’ve grown up. So we’re going to have a lot of fun and I think we’re going to be able to put on a great show. We just can’t wait for rehearsals to get underway and to start the show.
RJ: Is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to the most about being on Stars on Ice?
Alex Shibutani: I think the performing. In our experience shows have really aided us in our ability to improve our skating. We compete maybe six, seven, eight times a season and in comparison to a lot of other sports where they play 80 games, there’s just fewer times we’re able to perform our craft in front of a live audience, and that show setting is great practice for us. We’re able to explore different things with our emotions and how we connect with an audience.
Maia Shibutani: And also Stars on Ice just has such an amazing and rich history so to be a part of that is really amazing for us.
Kari: Who are some of the skaters who influenced you when you were growing up?
Alex Shibutani: Every time we get asked this question we almost hesitate to list because there are so many great people that have been very supportive. Even before we were ice dancing together we had the opportunity to go watch skating live for the first time in 2001, see the world championships in Vancouver, and in 2003 in Washington, DC. And we were very lucky at that time to have interaction with skaters like Tanith and Ben, and Michelle Kwan. People like that that were so generous with their time, and so giving, and kind and really presented the sport to us in a way, not just on the ice, but off the ice, that impacted us and gave us the idea that it was something we really wanted to do. We’ve just received so much support, even when we were young. Skaters like Brian Boitano, Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi really the list goes on and on, and it’s been great receive mentorship and feedback from a lot of these skaters and for the current generation, for us, for me and Maia in particular we have a lot of these skaters that we can get in touch with whenever we have a question, they’re always supporting us. It’s a really special feeling and we hope to continue that tradition.
Kari: Definitely. With US figure skating there’s so much to be proud of where it’s going. We were just talking after Worlds that we have so much to be proud of with all our athletes.
Alex Shibutani: It’s incredibly exciting. We’re at the halfway point for the next Olympics and with the buildup going into South Korea, the US team looks like we’re in really good shape. I think that anything could happen, but at the same time we’ve got a really hard working group of individuals who support US figure skating and just the tradition that pushes everyone forward. Everyone is very driven and it’s exciting to be a part of the process. Internationally, the field has never been stronger. We’re seeing an incredible leap in difficulty, for example in the men’s event. It’s an exciting time to be a figure skating fan and it’s an exciting time for us to see our friends accomplishing great things in all the disciplines.
RJ: You do a lot of videos and little things that are fun through your Shib Sibs stuff. Are you going to do any videos like that when you’re on the road with Stars on Ice?
Maia Shibutani: Yeah, definitely. We’re always posting, well, not always, but when we can to our Shib Sibs media channels. Definitely sharing our journey and documenting our journey is something that’s important to us. The cast is full of a great group. We have so many friends on tour. So we’ll be looking forward to sharing behind the scenes of the show.
Alex Shibutani: Just like competitions, our priority is always making sure our performance and the product we’re putting out there on the ice is very important. At the same time we realize the value of presenting the sport in this new generation of social media and the new way that people connect. It’s a great opportunity to draw new audiences to the sport. So we’re going to hopefully get some stuff together for the show. As always we’ll post to all our social media accounts. The eight that we’re a part of give or take five.
Kari: We’ll be looking forward to that. We always look forward to your videos and stuff and that’s definitely of a fun part of kind of getting to go on your journey with you.
We have a few set questions that we always ask everybody that we interview.
RJ: Sure. If you could be any superhero, who would it be and why?
Maia Shibutani: That’s so tough! Especially now with all the movies coming out.
Alex Shibutani: We’re borderline oversaturated with the superhero market. Do you want to go first I guess?
Maia Shibutani: I guess Black Widow is pretty cool. Scarlett Johansen is kicking butt in the Marvel movies, so I guess I’d have to go with that.
Alex Shibutani: She’s very dynamic, but she also shows vulnerability.
Maia Shibutani: She’s got great balance; she’s a neat character.
Alex Shibutani: Considering that there aren’t very many female superheroes at least portrayed in cinema right now she’s a good choice. I say all that just to stall for time! As far as superhero characters I almost want to do a hard pass on this. Everyone loves Batman. I’m trying to be funny and come up with something. I wouldn’t want to be Spider-Man because he always gets rebooted.
Kari: That’s a good answer!
Alex Shibutani: I’ll just go with Batman.
Maia Shibutani: But he gets rebooted all the time too!
Alex Shibutani: He does get rebooted. Let’s just put down Batman
Kari: We usually get from a lot of skaters that they want to fly or be really fast, and we always get really tickled at that because we’ll look at each other after the interview and say, “Do they not know that they can fly and already are really fast to us.” You guys already kind of are superheroes to us.
Alex Shibutani: I changed my mind! I change my answer to… I can’t remember his name so this is going to sound really forced… the character in The Incredibles that can skate and can make ice…
Maia and Kari: Frozone!
Alex Shibutani: That’s who I want to be.
Kari and RJ: That’s a great answer.
Kari: Okay, so mine is that you have five minutes in your car, you’re getting ready you have somewhere to go, what is your go to get pumped song?
Maia Shibutani: That’s always changing. Alex, you’re big on Spotify right, so it’s always… We have to have the same song all year, so we like some variety in the car.
Alex Shibutani: Before going to Boston I was listening to a lot of Jock Jams arena music to get me pumped up. I’m a big sports fan, I have been for a long time so something like “Welcome to the Jungle” or Gary Glitter’s “Rock n Roll Part 2”
Kari: Those are all like modern classics now!
Like I mentioned earlier we have an 18-month-old son and he loves skating. What advice would you give him or us if he were interested in pursuing figure skating? What kind of advice would you give to either him or us about being a skater or life in general?
Alex Shibutani: Well, I think interest is the biggest thing. I think if he shows interest and has an early passion for anything, whether skating or any other pursuit, my advice to parents would be to, not that we have advice as parents, but one of the things our parents did, they supported what we wanted to do as much as they could. They made so many sacrifices for us so that we could pursue our dreams. I think that if he shows that enthusiasm then that’s really exciting for a young child to be showing. As far as continuing on that road, there’s so many… our journey in particular has been very unique, so you have to continue to keep your head down and work hard and believe in yourself. We’ve never given up and we’ve always believed in ourselves, and it’s been helpful that there’s been two of us. We’re there for each other and that’s been a special part of our journey.
Kari: So what’s next for you guys after Stars on Ice? What are you going to be doing this summer?
Maia Shibutani: Training!
Kari: We can’t wait until next season, and we can’t wait for this Stars on Ice show. It’s going to be a great show.
RJ: Yeah, it’s going to be awesome.
Maia Shibutani: Okay awesome, thank you so much guys.
Alex Shibutani: Yeah, we’re really looking forward to it.
Kari: It was wonderful talking to you Maia and Alex. Thank you so much.
You can catch Maia and Alex along with Ashley Wagner, Meryl Davis & Charlie White and many other talented skaters on the 2016 Stars on Ice tour. The tour begins on April 15th in Hershey PA and you can find out more information and purchase tickets by clicking here!
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