Tessa Virtue, 16, and Scott Moir, 18, accomplished a feat never before achieved by a Canadian dance team when they won the 2006 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. The dancers, who were a close second last season, also won the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final in the Czech Republic as well as both their Junior Grand Prix events, the Andorra Cup and the JGP Montreal. Last season, they were second at the JGP Final as well as Junior Worlds. They also placed fourth in senior dance at Canadians, a year after winning the Canadian junior dance title. This year they were third at Nationals and actually placed second in both the original and free dances.
Although eligible for the senior Grand Prix circuit, the team decided to stay in juniors this season. “We decided to concentrate on our junior schedule,” Moir said. “Senior events weren’t in our schedule. The travel interruptions to our training weren’t worth it. Our main goals were to win the Junior Grand Prix Final and Junior Worlds although we wanted to make a good showing at Nationals because we were performing in front of our countrymen. This is likely our last year in juniors so we want to enjoy it. After that, we’ll just take it year by year because you never know what can happen.”
They have fared well since the introduction of the new judging system. “It’s awesome,” Moir said. “It’s worked well for us.” “It’s exciting to take home the protocol and learn from it,” Virtue added. “We’ve made a lot of changes in lifts and spins to increase our levels. Marina and Igor are really good at that.”
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 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 said.
Virtue began dancing with Moir when she was seven. Both continued to skate singles for a few seasons but eventually ice dance became their top priority. “Once I got a dance partner, things just kind of clicked,” Tessa said. Scott was influenced to try dance by his brother, Danny, a senior ice dancer. Scott teamed up with Tessa when his aunt, Carol Moir, who originally coached both of the skaters in singles, decided they would make good dance partners. The dancers have now been skating together for over nine years.
The dancers trained for many years in Kitchener-Waterloo with Paul MacIntosh and Suzanne Killing before switching in 2003 to work with Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva in Michigan. They train on ice for four hours a day, five days a week. Moir takes ballet twice a week and Virtue goes three times. “We’re happy with where we are and the training environment,” Virtue stated. “It’s inspiring having Tanith and Ben there and watching how they handle themselves on the ice and how they work effectively together. It’s a good atmosphere. They push us and our goal is to be among the best one day. Working with the other high caliber teams is really a big advantage for us.”
Shpilband choreographs their dances. For their original dance, the couple used a rhumba to “Beautiful Maria” from the Mambo Kings soundtrack and a mambo to “Do You Only Want to Dance” from Dirty Dancing Havana Nights. “We found the music for the mambo,” Moir said. “For the rhumba, Igor presented us with choices for the music and we liked that one.” “We have a lot of fun with the rhythm,” Virtue continued. “We worked with Mark Brock, a ballroom instructor and competitor, who helped us a lot with our interpretation of the rhythms.”
Their free dance was to “Malaguena”. “Latin’s a lot of fun to do. But our free dance is a lot different than the usual Malaguena” Moir noted. “Peter Suorez worked with us on the flamenco theme,” Virtue added. “He also worked with Tanith and Ben. It was great to benefit from his experience.”
The dancers have two exhibition programs. “Our first program is to ‘Mack the Knife and it’s just a fun piece,” Moir said. “The second one is a Spanish duet to ‘No Me Amos’. That’s more of a romantic theme. We like smooth and dancy stuff.”
Moir is just finishing high school, needing only a few credits to graduate. He plans to take those in night school next semester. Virtue is in eleventh grade. In the first term she took courses on-line and by correspondence. For the second term she was enrolled in high school in Windsor, Ontario. Neither is certain of a future career but Moir has considered a job in law enforcement and Virtue is leaning towards law school and a law practice like many in her family.
Both skaters usually go home on weekends to visit their families. Moir likes to play sports with his brothers and watch hockey on TV. He also likes to read action books and watch action movies. Virtue likes to dance off ice and continues to take classes on her own in hip-hop and other kinds of dancing not related to skating. She has been in dance classes since she was three and noted, “one of the highlights of my life was the summer I spent at the National Ballet School when I was nine.” She also takes her big white ragdoll cat back with her to Michigan while she trains. “It’s nice to have him with me when I’m away from home,” she said.