Olympics 2018: Ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani share their Must List and Coldplay connection
Having already picked up a bronze medal in the team competition earlier in the 2018 Olympics, Maia and Alex Shibutani take the ice Monday (Sunday night in the U.S.) for their short dance and try to make their way back onto the podium in the Ice Dancing competition. But before they do, we quizzed the brother-sister duo — affectionately known as the Shib Sibs — about some of their pop culture preferences, especially those (ahem, Coldplay!) which have made their way into their routines…
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What made you choose Coldplay for your long program?
ALEX SHIBUTANI, 26: We had a breakthrough season in 2015-16… [Since] our experience at the Olympic Games in Sochi [in 2014], we matured a lot and made some decisions about how we wanted to continue our career from a creative standpoint and the types of music and the types of programs that we wanted to do, and we made a decision that we wanted to be more personal. Earlier in our career, we were listening to a lot of advice and following the lead of our coaches, people who were in an advisory capacity for us and guiding our career at that point because we were too young with minimal life experience and minimal skating experience, and so we were sort of fulfilling the vision of other people. After Sochi, we decided that we wanted to do what we wanted to do and we were ready to take on that challenge. Wanting to get back on a World podium [they’d won bronze at the World Championships in the 2010-2011 season, but hadn’t medaled since] in preparation for the 2018 Games, we chose to skate to “Fix You” by Coldplay, and it was the first time that we told a more personal story on the ice. Maia and I are very different to begin with from the rest of the ice dance field because we are brother and sister… so, by telling our personal story, a story of us trying to fix ourselves following some growing pains after our initial success in 2011, we had this tremendous year where we sort of relaunched our career in a lot of ways.… This year, with it being the Olympics, you always want to skate to something that is of personal significance to you, and realizing that the Olympic Games draws so many eyes to the sport, that’s also something we wanted to keep in mind, and with Coldplay being such a well-known popular band — and they’re popular for a reason. Their music sort of speaks to a lot of key motifs and themes about dreams and love and freedom and flying… and so we chose to skate to “Paradise,” because we want PyeongChang to be our “Paradise.”
MAIA SHIBUTANI, 23: We do realize it’s unique. When a lot of people think about figure skating, I don’t necessarily think Coldplay is what they expect to hear while they’re watching the sport during the Olympics, but for us, we’re following what we want to show on the ice creatively, and that process, like Alex said, has brought us to wanting our “Paradise” to be in PyeongChang. And we’ve been on such a journey personally, but really the messaging of the song — of following in your dreams and believing in yourself no matter what — that’s really resonated with us.
Have you heard from Chris Martin or anyone from Coldplay?
MAIA: Yeah, we actually had the chance to meet them two times. Once, in 2016, right after we skated to “Fix You” and then we also met them again at the iHeart Radio Festival last September.
Do you guys ever make it to the movies?
MAIA: It’s funny because people will always ask if we ever want time alone, but in our rare free time, we’ll be like, “No, let’s just go see a movie.”
ALEX: We actually look to movies and television a lot and listen to a lot of podcasts that detail or interview directors and producers and writers about their creative process, because I think looking outside of your lane, it informs us a lot. So, like, movies, off the top of my head that I really enjoyed recently were Baby Driver — Edgar Wright, musically speaking, did a really great job with the edit of that movie, it was really entertaining. And I liked Get Out a lot. We both saw The Big Sick and enjoyed that. We’re big Star Wars fans — well, I’m more of a big Star Wars fan.
MAIA: I’m really loyal to all of the Marvel movies. I can’t wait for Infinity War to come out, but I really liked the last Thor movie. And, I know it’s DC, but I also really loved Wonder Woman.
ALEX: And I also want to add a couple documentaries that I’ve seen recently: I saw this documentary on a flight called Score, a film music documentary that was about various composers like Hans Zimmer and John Williams and more modern composers like Trent Reznor, who are detailing their process of adding the music to a film and what that brings to the table. And I just watched Spielberg, the HBO documentary on Steven Spielberg, and I enjoyed that a lot.
Are there any movies you’ll always watch even though you’ve seen them a million times?
ALEX: Harry Potter was a really big part of our childhood, and those are on television all the time. So in the offhand chance that we’re not in a workout or running around and I just have the TV on in my apartment, I can just sit down at any point in those movies and just finish it.
What are you listening to when you’re working out?
ALEX: I listen to music when I’m doing cardio and lifting weights, but when I’m stretching and warming down, I listen to podcasts…. I like “The Fire,” which is a song by The Roots. “Big Rings” by Drake and Future. I like “Freefallin’,” the John Mayer cover of Tom Petty’s song — that’s more of a warming down, stretching song. “All of the Lights” by Kanye. Oh, and Coldplay.
MAIA: Yeah, we both listen to a lot of Coldplay, too. I think that there’s just a really good energy to their music…. This summer, I was really obsessed with that Calvin Harris song “Slide.”
What podcasts are you listening to?
ALEX: I’m a big fan of The Ringer podcast network because I’m a big Boston sports fan and Bill Simmons is like the ultimate homer Boston sports fan… I like The Watch with Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan. And then I like the Bon Appetit Foodcast. That one’s really great because my meal routine on a daily basis is pretty boring because we eat what makes us feel good the next day — so for the past month, I’ve been eating a lot of salmon and brown rice and broccoli for dinner and that’s it — so hearing about other foods and really cool restaurants is something that I use to satiate that hunger for food that I can’t eat right now.
MAIA: And then I like to listen to The Off-Camera With Sam Jones podcast. I just like the variety of guests he has. It’s really informative but then also just a lot of fun to listen to.
So what are you going to eat when you’re finished competing?
ALEX: Well, we’ll be in Korea, so I think if we can get some Korean barbeque, that’d be awesome.
MAIA: When I get back home, I’m thinkin’ pizza.
ALEX: Yeah, when I get home, I’m going to get a fried chicken sandwich.
What TV do you watch?
MAIA: I watch This Is Us, but I’m not up to date. And The Good Place. Mostly what I like to do — actually even when I’m doing cardio — is watch late-night show segments on YouTube. That’s a lot of fun for me.
ALEX: And we love 30 Rock!
If Dancing With the Stars comes a-calling, will you do it?
ALEX: If they wanted us on, I think we would consider it.
MAIA: It would be really different to compete against each other.
ALEX: We’ve never had to do that before in a serious way. It would be interesting and potentially awkward. But it would be really fun. I think we would both take it really seriously.