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Perreaults Peruse Possibilities

by Barry Mittan
Barry Mittan

Catherine and Charles Andre Perreault are one of Canada's more entertaining ice dance teams

Catherine and Charles André Perreault are one of Canada’s more entertaining dance teams. The brother-sister duo finished tenth at the 2002 Canadians in their first senior season after narrowly missing the podium the previous year in juniors, finishing fourth. They have won international medals in novice, finishing second twice in two North American Challenge Skate events and in juniors, with a bronze at the Junior Grand Prix in Harbin, China.

“We expected to move to seniors last year but decided with our coaches at the time that it was better to set our feet at a higher place at the junior level,” Catherine stated. “We had to withdraw from the nationals the year before (due to illness) so we didn’t have a placement in our records. We also received two junior internationals so it was better to focus on our junior dances and programs. This year we were definitely ready to take the next step up.”

Catherine started figure skating when she was eight, while her brother began at eleven. “My parents thought that a girl in Canada had to know how to skate so that if guys take me out on a date to skate, I wouldn’t look ridiculous,” she said. “They were planning my love life in advance, I guess. As for Charles, he was a hockey player like my dad and one year; he lost interest because of a bad coach who was fighting more than the kids. My brother had always come to my practices on weeknights and he was starting to be interested in figure skating so he gave it a try. And that’s how we started skating as a couple for fun and haven’t stopped since then.”

“We simply started as a dance couple,” she continued. “It never occurred to us that we could have been pair skaters. We were dancers and we had the shape of dancers. I was also too tall to be a pair skater.” Other skaters in the Perreault family include their cousin, Josette Perreault, who competed on senior synchronized teams in international competitions.

The Perreaults train with Martine Patenaude in Boucherville, Quebec with assistance from Steven Bélanger, Élise Hamel and Bruno Yvars. Prior to last season, they had trained in Florida with Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay at J.P. Igloo in Ellenton, but returned so that Catherine could attend college and Charles could work. “Our favorite skaters are the Duchesnays because they are the most determined people we have ever seen,” Catherine stated. “They knew what it took to be champions: hard work, determination, originality, ingenuity and intelligence. Isabelle used to say that it takes a drop of talent in an ocean of hard work to be a champion and we will keep this in mind forever.”

“Our last year at the junior level, the Duchesnays asked us to do the choreography of our original dance so that the moves would represent our personality,” she continued. “It was great. They helped us go through it with ideas but the main concept came from us. We still try to get involved in our choreography but it’s not easy. It always depends on who’s doing it. Some choreographers won’t give you much place. You have to go home with their thing and then gradually adapt it to yourself throughout the year.”

“We are best at tangos because we did so many of them,” she continued. “The three tango programs we did in our career were definitely our best and the ones we felt the most comfortable doing. That energy of love, hate and jealousy is great between brother and sister! But we like pretty much any kind of music. As we get older our taste in music keeps evolving and changing. Last year for instance we had very classical music, Romeo and Juliet from Tchaikovsky. Who would have thought!”?

Regarding their choices in music each year, Catherine explained, “It really depends on what we feel like doing. If the year before we danced on a slow piece of music and trained it everyday, we want something completely different and refreshing the year after. For instance this year, we definitely wanted a piece of music that will be fun to skate and to watch. We wanted something entertaining with a lot of highlights. The music we chose will be a secret until it’s a sure thing!”

The dancers worked with Igor Shpilband in Detroit in May as he choreographed the team’s new free dance. “We needed that little extra that the top five have in their choreography to move up and compete against them,” Catherine explained. “It is the best free dance we’ve ever had. We are very excited about it and everybody seems to love it. Our program is about an angel and a devil, the good against the bad! It’s quite fun to do and hopefully everybody will like it as much as we do.”

Shanti Ruchpaul choreographed their new original dance. “It is going to be very demanding for us but also great to watch,” Catherine said. “She’s an awesome artist and she lets us create movements and footwork by ourselves, which is great for finding our own style and personality.”

As for the compulsories, Charles said, “I enjoy most of the compulsory dances, but I prefer the Argentine Tango and the Golden Waltz.” Catherine added, “I enjoy most of them but I’ve always had more difficulties expressing the timing of the Latin dances like the Silver Samba and the Rhumba. But these two dances are probably the most enjoyable ones to skate in front of an audience.”

Catherine designs all the costumes herself with the help of others on the team. For years, their mother, Sylvia, sewed the costumes but for the last three years, they have had different designers who helped. Micheline Boyer will be doing this year’s costumes.

The siblings have trained off ice with several ballroom experts including Ginette Cournoyer, one the best ballroom teachers in the world. They also took ballroom lessons from a great couple in Florida at Wilson’s DanceSport Center in Sarasota. “They are the ones who taught us how to feel the tango,” Catherine explained. “We have had ballet lessons for years with Maurice Lemay once a week in Montreal. When we trained in Florida, Kerry Leitch brought Diane Partington in the rink three times a week to teach a group of skaters. We definitely think that ballet training is essential to a great figure skater.”

The Perreaults hope to eventually medal at Canadians, Worlds and the Olympics, then go on tour and travel around the world in a skating show for a few years, but neither plans a permanent career in skating. “I have other goals in my mind,” Catherine stated. “I want to be a journalist or a host in a television show. I’m studying communications right now and I enjoy it a lot.” She attends Montmorency College in Laval, Quebec. “I’m done studying for now,” Charles said. “I’m just skating and working. It’s plenty for now. I do want to go back to university in the near future to perfect my real estate skills.” He currently works with his mother in her real estate office and plans to make that his career.

For relaxation, the skaters enjoy reading, shopping and watching movies. “I’m very much into action movies, war movies, science fiction movies and comedies,” Charles noted. Catherine noted, “I study cinema so I’m very critical about them. But then again it’s all about the time of the day and the mood I’m in. I enjoy pretty much all kind of movies except for the scary ones.” Charles has been reading the Lord of the Rings, while Catherine is enmeshed in a French trilogy by Marie Laberge. Charles enjoys punk rock and alternative music while Catherine prefers old soft rock songs. “We live for music,” she said. “It takes us to different places and makes us live different emotions. It’s great!” Neither has any special collections, but they keep the stuffed animals that people throw as gifts.

“We love traveling,” Catherine enthused. “We had the chance to go to China last year for a Junior Grand Prix and it was absolutely amazing. We enjoy new things all the time and when we’re away we rarely miss home. The Scandinavian countries are also very beautiful. We had the chance to compete in Norway and in Sweden and we loved the historical aspect of these countries.” For holidays, they like to go “anywhere where it’s warm and where there’s a beach,” but they also try to go skiing a couple of times a year.

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