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Virtue, Moir stress simplicity, downplay storyline

Team, coach favor more 'playful' approach to short dance program

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are expected to waltz to their fifth national title.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are expected to waltz to their fifth national title. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/11/2013) - Somewhere along the line this fall, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir realized they felt a bit out of sync with their short dance.

"We looked at each other and said, 'Wait, what are we trying to with the program?'" Moir said during a media teleconference this week.

The issue wasn't technical; after Skate Canada, where the Olympic champions landed in a near-dead heat in the short dance with Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, their marks improved at the Rostelecom Cup and the Grand Prix Final in Sochi, Russia. There, they even gained high levels on their Yankee Polka patterns, the lightning-quick dance giving many teams fits this season.

But something was missing.

At Skate Canada, Zoueva described the program, set to actor Sir Anthony Hopkins' "The Waltz Goes On," as a kind of paen to how one person can change another's life for the good.

"The idea is, she is a little bit lost, she feels alone, and he comes into her life and makes it better," Zoueva said. "In the polka, he shows her, 'Look, let's dance, life is great.' So, she starts thinking, 'Life is good, it's happy.' Then come the twizzles, and the feeling builds."

Somewhere, between the 36-second Yankee Polka, the twizzles and the rotational lift, Virtue and Moir weren't feeling it. So, after they placed second to their training partners and top rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White at the Grand Prix Final, they opted to retool the program for next week's Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ontario, where they will compete for their fifth national title.

"We felt the translation got lost somewhere at one point," Moir, 25, said. "So, we worked with [Ontario dance instructor] Jennifer [Swan] to try to bring some special element to short dance, which we think we have in the free ... You will be able to notice, for sure."

What they ended up with was less storyline, more slice-of-life. The midline steps have been modified, but the biggest change is the overall feel.

"It ended up kind of being our story -- two kids having fun," Moir said. "We're together. There's nothing about meeting each other; we've known each other a while."

"Truthfully, it's just two people who enjoy each other and are in love and dancing to beautiful music," Virtue, 23, said. "We started with this really complicated storyline, and it's hard to get it across in three minutes and include all of the technical elements as well. We wanted to simplify that and really just create some beautiful movement."

Zoueva embraces a more light-hearted approach.

"We made some edits in the beginning, the end, a little in the middle," the coach said. "It's more playful. The whole program, they are showing more of their [own] characters off the ice. Of course, we also made a few corrections in the footwork and added lots of speed, to make better levels."

As for their passionate free dance to Carmen, the storyline -- vastly different than that of the Bizet opera -- stays the same.

"In the end, Tessa does win; she does get her freedom, and I'm a ruined man," Moir said. "A lot of people are expecting Tessa to die like Carmen does in the opera, but our ending is a little different and, hopefully, that creativity reaches the fans."

According to Zoueva, though, the plot will move along a lot faster.

"We have worked a lot for speed," she said. "The steps are lighter, sharper, more powerful. I have planned the program to build all season, to create more excitement for the audience. It was great even in the beginning; now that we have had time to work, we have made it flow. The program now flies."

Skaters and coach agreed that there was nothing unusual in making a few midseason adjustments heading into the Canadian championships.

"It's no surprise; we always say our programs evolve as the year goes on," Moir said. "After we got feedback after the Grand Prix Final, we had to make a couple of changes. We're looking forward to showing how the programs have evolved since then. Nationals is always a good measuring stick."

Reporter's notebook: U.S. junior champion Gracie Gold traveled to Zoueva's training hub in Canton, Mich., twice this fall, once after her Grand Prix debut at Skate Canada and again around Christmas, to soak in the atmosphere and add detail to her movements. "She is extremely talented, very naturally gifted," Zoueva said. "Her skating and her jumps flow; she feels the music very well. She is very open, able to do any choreography, play any character" ... At the Grand Prix Final, Virtue was impressed with the Iceberg Skating Palace, the figure skating venue for the Sochi Games: "It was a spectacular venue -- the rink is just stunning. You drive up, and it really does look like an iceberg, just all lit up in turquoise and this beautiful glass ... The ice was great; everyone was excited about that, even just sitting in the stands watching some of the other events. It just has a nice warm feeling to it."