Virtue, Moir go back to basics with Dubreuil, LauzonCanadian Olympic gold medalists work on developing connection to ice
After a two-year layoff following their Olympic silver medal in Sochi, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have proven that they are still on top of the ice dance world. They are the strong favorites to win the Grand Prix Final, which comes two weeks after their decisive victory over rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron at the NHK Trophy. In an interview they did before the short dance Friday night, they talked about their goals for the next two years. Foremost among them? Improving their skating skills.
Icenetwork: How does it feel to be here again?
Tessa Virtue: We're thrilled to be here. It was one of our goals coming back this season: qualify for the Final.
Scott Moir: (laughing) Also, I must say that it's not very difficult to wake up in the morning to compete in Marseille!
Moir: It's always sunny and warm, compared to the amount of snow we now have in Montreal!
Virtue: We love France in general -- its architecture, its food, its fans…
Icenetwork: Ice dance has changed a lot since you left competition. What do you think of the changes?
Virtue: Ice dance has changed, for sure. It's refreshing, in a way. There were some great rule changes. They freed up some elements, and that's great for the sport. It gives more potential for growth.
Also, technical specialists know exactly what they want. Now, you can't miss an edge or anything technical, and that's quite neat.
Moir: We knew when we decided to come back that [the changes in the sport] would be a big focus for us. The level of ice dance has increased a lot, driven by Gabriella [Papadakis] and Guillaume [Cizeron] on speed, or Kaitlyn [Weaver] and Andrew [Poje] on the artistic side. This is very interesting.
Icenetwork: Coming back hasn't been too difficult, then?
Moir: No, we're quite passionate about the reasons why we're coming back. We really missed the feeling of competition. We love training every day, we love our new team, and that makes it very special to us. I think it's even more fun for us to compete now than it used to be.
Icenetwork: You didn't change schools many times in your career; this time you did. What did you find new in Montreal?
Virtue: We skated with two different schools prior to this one: one in Waterloo, Ontario, and then in Canton with Marina [Zoueva] and Igor [Shpilband]. It's been almost two decades. It's a new phase for us, and we're starting a new chapter of our lives. We love the atmosphere Marie-France [Dubreuil] and Patrice [Lauzon] have created in Montreal.
We love their vision, and we love their way of working, both technically and artistically. Our off-ice team is extraordinary. We appreciate working there so much as athletes. We feel we are exactly at the place that will take us toward what we want to achieve.
Moir: Marie-France and Patrice have created so much love in their arena.
Their genius is that they know how not to make us start over. We work with the basics we have, which we developed for 10 years with Marina and Igor. We're so grateful to them. We work with those bases, and we complement them with a deeper connection and the ability to tell a story.
Icenetwork: Is telling a story one of your ambitions in this new chapter of your career?
Moir: It's a style we want to develop.
Virtue: That starts right from the inception of the program, even before the choreographer begins his work. You must aim to give purpose to each single movement. We were ready for such work, as we have been working with different choreographers the last two years. With Marie-France and David Wilson, that's something we've been pushing this year: Every single movement becomes a part of the whole. It contributes to physically getting the message across.
Once we had the skeleton of our program, telling a story became embedded in every part of the process.
Moir: It's a different way for us to consider choreography.
Virtue: Interestingly, it's the way we used to work in our first years in Waterloo. With Marie-France, I felt the same feelings as I experienced then. In a way, it was as if my inner child was coming out again.
Moir: We do feel this deep within us. It's even alarming to us to see how much fun we're having, even when we are tired, testing the limits. We're happier than ever to skate! Also, we're learning so much, and we have so much more to learn.
I was joking with Gabriella the other day. She was surprised that I would feel that way after so many years at the top. Really, you always have so much to learn. We love being students, and we love being athletes, and I hope it shows even on the ice.
Icenetwork: You have always been known for your superlative glide on the ice. You've not lost any of it. How did you maintain that level?
Virtue: That's flattering. The first thing we did when we arrived in Montreal was sit with Marie-France and Patrice. We talked about what we wanted. That was the first thing we wanted to work on: the basics, the way the blade glides on the ice.
Moir: When we watched videos from our programs, we were not pleased with what we saw. We found ourselves stiff. Coming back was also a way for us to work on that again. We need to give more life to our knees and work strongly on the relation between the ice and us. You might not see the result yet, because it requires a keen eye to see, but we found our steps. It's huge, especially after skating 20 years, to go back that much. That's a major project for us.
Virtue: We're committed to that. Some days we're really happy with what we achieved; some days we're not as satisfied. But we hope that by 2018 it will be completely visible.
Moir: Gabriella and Guillaume do have that, the knee action, the magic. Skating with them is so inspiring.
Icenetwork: You don't seem to have lost your connection either, which you built since childhood.
Virtue: We can't! We've been skating together for 17 years now. We spent two years skating in shows. We've been through a lot together also, because of our speaking engagements, doing business, traveling and, of course, touring.
Moir: It has given us a different energy. In fact, that's also a big part of coming back: We want to be in that pressure again together.
Icenetwork: You have also managed to improve your lifts, which received acclaim some years ago.
Moir: Patrice and Marie-France have a different approach (to lifts). They are probably the best ice dance lifters of all time. We'll keep improving those lifts, especially the different ways we come out of the lifts. We have so much to learn!
Icenetwork: You have elected to skate your short dance to Prince's music. Your costume is so gorgeous, Tessa!
Virtue: We played with so many different ideas for this short dance. There were so many different directions we could take with Prince. We wanted to refer to him, so that people could understand it was Prince right away, even when they don't know it. At the same time, we didn't want to do too much. So we just took a few ornaments, and Patrice helped convince people that it was a good choice. We then worked with a costume designer, Matthew Carroll, who made the costume in five or six days.
Moir: It's just too bad I can't see her more. I see the costume sparkles only under the light of the rink, but then I'm skating too close to her to see them!
Icenetwork: It's strange that the lady is wearing Prince's attributes, whereas the man is not.
Moir: Oh, tomorrow is another day, and you never know what will happen! (He laughs.)
Virtue: Maybe we'll add something here and there. But we don't want it to be too much.