Golden Skate

Interview with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir

Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue (18) and Scott Moir (20) perform their Original Dance to music from the Assassination Tango soundtrack at Tropee Eric Bompard.

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue (18) and Scott Moir (20) began skating together 10 years ago. Since then, the team steadily climbed the ranks over the years. During the 2005-06 season, team won gold medals in all their Junior Grand Prix (JGP) events – including the JGP Final. They also won the Junior World title that year as well as placing third at the 2006 Canadian Championships and the 2006 Four Continent Championships.

Last season was their first senior international debut on the Grand Prix circuit where they placed second at Skate Canada and fourth at Trophee Eric Bompard. They also won bronze again at the 2007 Four Continents Championships, second at the 2007 Canadian Championships, and a very respectable sixth at the 2007 World Figure Skating Championships.

Skating is a family tradition for the Moirs. “Everyone in my family skated,” he said. “My mother is a figure skating coach, my dad played hockey and coached and my two older brothers also skated. I started skating at three, got my first dance partner at age eight and started skating with Tessa at nine.”

Virtue had a slightly different reason when she started at the age of six. “I didn’t want to be the only one in my class who couldn’t skate when we went on a school field trip to the arena,” she aid.

Virtue began dancing with Moir when she was seven. “I am still trying to do singles, but once I got a dance partner, things just kind of clicked,” she said. Both skaters decided to try dance due to the influence of Moir’s brother, Danny, who skated as a junior at the time but now coaches. The two teamed up when Moir’s aunt, Carol Moir, who coached both of the skaters for singles, decided they would make good dance partners.

This season, the team plans to use Dark Eyes for their Original Dance (OD) and Umbrellas of Cherbourg for their Free Dance (FD).

The team is slated to compete at Skate Canada and NHK Trophy.

Larry (USA): You guys have been together forever. With so many teams breaking up and new teams forming, do you think that your continuity gives you an advantage over the field?

Tessa: I feel so very fortunate to have started skating with Scott at such a young age. Not once in the past 10 years have I ever questioned our partnership, nor could I imagine myself skating with anyone else! I would certainly like to think that the longevity of our partnership works to our advantage . . . there is a level of comfort and trust between us that has grown over the years.

Scott: I think skating together for so long and we getting along so well gives us an advantage for sure. We always know what each other are thinking and how to react to each other which makes are training productive.

Galina (RUS): What helps you stay together as a dance team for so long?

Tessa: We are best friends! I think our personalities balance one another extremely well – plus we know how to interact positively and productively with each other. We work hard at maintaining our partnership, but to be honest, it’s just what we’ve come to know and depend on. I hardly remember my life without Scott!

Scott: I think just respecting each other on and off the ice and the fact that Tessa has amazing patience to work with me everyday.

Brittany (USA): Tessa, what are Scott’s best qualities as a partner? Scott, what are Tessa’s best qualities as a partner?

Tessa: Scott is a very determined, focused, energetic and sincere person. He has a fantastic work ethic and is very competitive. His attitude towards skating is really admirable and I’m always learning from him. Not to mention, he can always make me laugh!

Scott: I don’t think we have enough room to list them all. Let’s start with how talented of an athlete she is and combine that with how motivated she is and how hard she works. But I think that Tessa has a great personality and is incredibly easy to work with because of this. She is very kind to have put up with me for eleven years.

Annie F. (USA): How did you get interested in skating? Why did you choose Ice Dancing instead of the two other skating disciplines?

Tessa: My entire family has always been very athletic and sport-oriented. My brothers played soccer, hockey, football and baseball and my sister was a fantastic gymnast, and did ballet. She eventually skated as well. When I was six, my class was going to skate for a field trip and I wanted to be able to participant with my friends. At first my grandmother took me to a rink where my brother’s hockey team practiced – before the team got there my brother tried to teach me the basics! I liked it and started taking lessons.

I did singles skating for a while and loved to jump. I even skated on a synchro team one year! However, once Scott and I started training more intensively, there was little time left for singles – especially since I still did quite a bit of ballet and modern dance too!

Scott: I started skating in order to help my hockey skills. I was also always at the arena because my mom is a coach so it made sense for me to be on the ice rather than just hanging around. Why ice dance? Definitely because of the girls.

Larry (USA): Tessa, the Shpilband-Zueva team has acquired a reputation for keeping too close a watch on their girls’ weight. Do you feel a lot of pressure to stay skinny? How do you deal with it? What advice can you give to young girls who want to stay fit and healthy?

Tessa: I think that in any sport with a focus on aesthetics there is pressure to maintain a certain body image. It comes with the territory! Honestly, I have never felt any pressure whatsoever from any of my coaches with respect to my weight. I think it’s most important to take care of your body and be healthy and fit. If possible, get advice from professionals about fitness and health, since there is a real science to diet and nutrition that enhance fitness, health and performance. My advice would be to get help from a nutritionist and a physical fitness expert – this is not likely your coach. The professional guidance will provide confidence for maximizing potential.

Julia (CAN): Do any coaches/choreographers other than Spilband and Zueva have input into your training?

Tessa/Scott: We do work with a variety of ‘experts’ depending on the specific dance. For example if we are doing a rhumba we will bring in our ballroom coach to help get the flavor of the dance. Our ballet teacher also helps with a lot of classical moves.

Danielle (USA): What is a normal training day like for you?

Tessa/Scott: It depends on the time of the season. But usually we skate for four or five hours and then depending on the day we either do off-ice conditioning or ballet class. We also do other classes like gymnastics to help with coordination.

Yin (CAN): What performance of the past 2006-07 season are you most proud of and why?

Tessa: I’d have to say that the free dance at our first senior worlds this past year in Tokyo was extremely memorable. We had been through so much with that particular program (Valse Triste) that it made it such a personally meaningful skate.

Scott: The performance I was most proud of is probably our free dance at the 2007 BMO Financial Group National Championships. Although our free dance at Worlds was better I feel that we skated as good at that time as we could have, and that was a great feeling.

Larry (USA): After their medal explosion in Torino, Russia’s fortunes are at a low ebb. With men’s, ladies and pairs in an uncertain state, there is going to be huge pressure to advance Domnina and Shabalin in dance. What do you think about the politics of your sport?

Tessa: I guess that politics will always be a part of ice dance – although the new judging system has done much to correct past abuses. As a skater, I have little control over this and consequently prefer to focus on our performance. A wise person once told me that as an athlete when you look back on your career you don’t always immediately remember where you placed, rather the feeling that you had at the end of your program. I try to savour those feelings and the audience reactions!

Scott: We don’t pay much attention to the politics. We just focus on what is in our control and try and be the best we can be.

Phillip (USA): What teams have influenced and inspired you, and what is your favorite Compulsory Dance?

Tessa: When Scott and I first started skating together in Ilderton, his brother Danny and cousin Sheri certainly influenced our skating a lot! Of course, I also grew up admiring Shae-Lynn and Victor. Marie-France and Patrice, particularly over the past few years, have been an incredible source of inspiration to me. They are so innovative and creative with their skating, not to mention, they are both funny, engaging, and personable people and I’m so thrilled to call them friends. As far as compulsory dances go Phillip, I’d have to say that the Argentine is my favorite!

Scott: We learned a lot last year from Patrice and Marie France. They are such good ambassadors for the sport and such great people. We really enjoyed getting to know them and will miss traveling with them this year. I’m not sure I have a favorite compulsory dance. I think I like the newer dances better because they are more complicated and more fun to watch.

Marion (CAN): How do you feel about some people believing that you are over-rated and that you are moving up the dance ranks too quickly?

Tessa: Scott and I continue to hope and believe that we will be judged on our skating and our level of performance and not on our age. To us it doesn’t feel as though we arrived on the scene over night. We have been competing internationally for almost ten years and have usually been the youngest competitors in the field. Obviously as an athlete it’s both exciting and rewarding to move up the ranks quickly, but we still have a long way to go! We are always challenging ourselves and pushing the limits.

Scott: I try not to pay attention to these people. However, I hope to get the chance to prove them wrong.

Larry (USA): Canada has really shot to the fore in ice dancing lately. Do you feel ready to take over this year?

Tessa: I think we are ready to take on whatever comes our way, Larry! It is an exciting time for us and we certainly feel privileged to represent Canada.

Scott: We will miss Patch and Marie. However, we feel we are ready and excited to make that leap into the best of the world.

Lily (UK): How does it feel to know that you are expected to be the next great ice dancers? Do you feel like you are in Dubreuil & Lauzon’s shadow?

Tessa: Wow – that’s a tough question Lily! Scott and I both know that we have a lot of work to do if we want to get to the top echelon of ice dancing. We try to focus on improving all aspects of our skating and not concerning ourselves with expectations. I don’t think that we ever felt like we were in Marie France and Patrice’s shadow – our styles and characteristics are completely different. It is our hope that we bring something unique to ice dance.

Scott: Looking back now, we never felt like we were in their shadows at all. We have different styles and we are such good friends that all they did was inspire us.

Joe (USA): I loved your touching sad waltz – really innovative! Are you going to do another dance that is not so obvious for a waltz but different from what one would expect?

Tessa/Scott: Thank you, Joe! We loved performing Valse Triste! We are always looking for different music styles and compositions, so we’re pretty much open to anything. Creating something unexpected and innovative is definitely what we strive for with every program – hopefully you will enjoy our new programs for the 2007-08 season!

Cal (USA): What was your favorite original dance this year?

Tessa: I could watch Meryl and Charlie perform their tango original dance from 2006-7 forever! It was so captivating! Their intricacy and passion was amazing – getting to watch it every day in practice was a treat!

Scott: I liked Meryl and Charlie’s OD. Maybe just because Chucky and I are buddies but I think there side by side was great.

Larry (USA): OK, I’m going to go way out on a limb and predict the 2010 Olympic podium (in random order): Virtue and Moir, Davis and White, Domnina and Shabalin. Do you agree that these two teams are your biggest competition, or do you think that some of the old-timers will hang in there for three more years and challenge for medals?

Tessa: I like the way you think, Larry! There are so many talented teams that it is a tough call to make – although I think the ones mentioned are certainly contenders along with Tanith and Ben.

Scott: Well I definitely think those three teams will be going for it. I don’t think that Tanith and Ben are old timers and definitely think they must be considered in such a list.

Callie (USA): Your Valse Triste program is one of my favorites. Was there a particular story you were trying to tell in this dance, or was it an abstract expression of the music?

Tessa: Thanks Callie that means a lot! Yes – we did have a story to tell. It was a very dramatic piece of music, with a lot of emotional ups and downs. To show this, we created a love story – one where some outside factor was keeping us apart. Actually, a portion of the program was meant show us looking back on fond memories together! It was all about overcoming obstacles and finally finding comfort in one another.

Scott: We had a little story line. It is very dramatic music and was written for a reason so we thought we should have direction.

Eleanor (UK): You seem to go for a more traditional dance style than themed numbers. How do you decide on your music?

Tessa: Choosing music is always a collaborative decision made with our coaches. We have been extremely lucky that, to date, both Scott and I have ended up liking our eventual choices. I would have a particularly difficult time skating to music that I didn’t like!

Scott: It is a joint effort. Marina, Igor, Tessa and I all bring our ideas and are constantly thinking of music selections. But usually Tessa has the best ideas.

Melane (USA): Where do you get the ideas/music for your exhibition programs?

Tessa/Scott: Exhibition programs are a little less serious so it is a little easier to decide. We can usually come up with our own ideas and run them by Marina to see what she thinks.

Sheela (USA): Of all the programs you have done, which has been your favorite, and why?

Tessa: Looking back, I think I liked our original dance in 2004 (our first year junior) the best. It was a waltz/polka and it was so much fun to perform! Suzanne Killing did a fabulous job choreographing the program (as always) and it really suited our personalities. The footwork was so fast! I don’t know how we did it! I also remember particularly loving my dress for this program because it had a little bustle!

Scott: Tough Question! I think my absolute favorite program to skate so far was last year’s Valse Triste. We really liked the music and felt comfortable skating to it.

Melissa (USA): Are there styles of music that you haven’t skated to yet that you would like to try?

Tessa: I’d like to experiment with several different styles! It has always been my dream to skate to a ballet – mostly just to wear a tutu! Also, I’d love to skate to music from an Audrey Hepburn movie!

Scott: There are many types of music I want to skate to. I’m a huge country fan so I really want to do a country show number. Hopefully sometime in the future.

Kim (CAN): How difficult was it to move to Detroit in your teenage years to follow your skating dreams? How did you adapt to leaving your family and friends in Canada while you moved away?

Tessa: I think because I had experiences living away from home at an early age (National Ballet summer school – age 9 and Waterloo – age 13 through 14) that moving to Canton was a fairly easy transition. What was most difficult about moving to Detroit was adjusting to an entirely new way of training. It was intimidating! However, I knew it was best for our skating careers. Scott and I really relied on one another for support – we got through everything together. It is convenient to be fairly close to my hometown of London, as I’m able to make it home most weekends to see family and friends. I have a tremendous support team, for whom I am so grateful! The move has proven to be an excellent decision – not to mention the fabulous shopping in the States!!!

Scott: We had moved away from home to Waterloo before starting to train in Detroit. It was really hard to move away from home at first but I kept in touch with all my friends back in Ilderton, Ontario and those are still my best friends. Both my family and friends really support me and help me out along the way.

Larry (USA): Fans of the new judging system say that it is easier now for younger teams to move up, without waiting for the old champions to go away. Do you agree? What do you think of the new system?

Tessa: I do believe that the new system allows for more upward movement in placement – and regardless of a team’s age, it is encouraging to be rewarded for difficult elements performed. From my limited knowledge of judging systems, I think the new system is an improvement on previous models.

Scott: I think the new system has given our sport integrity. It is more of a sport and I feel like you have to perform in order to get the marks. I hope our sport can keep advancing in this direction.

Natasha (UKR): Tessa, will you make hair-style changes for next season? Scott, do you like red hair?

Tessa: Right now I’m back to my natural color of brown, but who knows! I liked going red last year for a change . . . I always joked that I felt more a part of my family, as both of my brothers are redheads! I am easily bored with my hair, so a change in the near future is quite possible.

Scott: Actually I prefer brunettes. Oh you’re talking about Tessa! In that case I loved her red hair last year. However, I must confess my eyes aren’t so good with identifying colors so I pretty much like any hair color she decides.

Amille (USA): You have such chemistry in the ice! Are you a couple off the ice as well? If not you two are really good actors!

Tessa: Thanks Amille . . . what a compliment! Let’s just say we’ve been there done that. We dated when I was seven!

Scott: I WISH. I’m just joking. I guess we are just really good actors. Tess and I have a unique relationship, she is like my younger but way more mature sister.

Dana (USA): How do you balance training with schoolwork and what are your future aspirations outside of ice dancing?

Tessa: School and skating is definitely a balancing act – especially when school is in a different country! Nonetheless, I love school and it has always been a priority for me. I think it’s so important to have an outlet/interest outside of skating, so for me being able to go to school half-days and be a normal student was critical. Teachers have always been very understanding and accommodating about my schedule – and usually those long plane rides to events are spent doing homework! I am about to start university this year – on a part-time basis and am exploring my future options. I have always had an interest in law (probably because there are quite a few lawyers in my extended family) and fashion/merchandising too – so who knows what direction my future will take.

Scott: I’m not too sure what my future aspirations are outside of ice dancing. I think I want to do something adventurous like be on a S.W.A.T. team or something. I would love something where I am on edge everyday.

Lauren (USA): Tessa, what are your plans for school now that (I think) you have graduated from high school?

Tessa: I actually just completed my last high school credit about one hour ago (online) – whoo hoo! I plan on attending the University of Windsor in the fall to major in psychology. I can’t wait!

Paula (USA): What advice would you give to young skaters who would like to become competitive ice dancers?

Tessa: Follow your passion!! (Which coincidently is the advice I would give to any young person!)

Scott: I think the main thing for young skaters is to make sure you enjoy yourself. It is a lot of work to be competitive ice dancers but it can also be a ton of fun. Make sure you have that balance of work and fun.

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