Shall We Dance...On Ice preview article

Groundbreaking Virtue and Moir here for major show Wednesday

No one would have attempted this 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, or even two years ago.

It speaks volumes about what happened in Vancouver in February that a show revolving around ice dancing would take over one of the world’s most respected figure skating arenas, and also find a prime time home on American and Canadian TV.

‘Shall We Dance…On Ice?’ at Copps Coliseum next Wednesday evening will feature not only the couple which shattered the most rigid resistance in all of figure skating history but will also highlight their close friends and direct rivals.

When Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skated to a decisive victory on Feb. 22, leaving a Pacific Coliseum audience oscillating between quiet awe and unabashed tears, they became the first non-European ice dancers ever to win the Olympic ice dance championship.

Their flamenco Original Dance and Mahler free dance were so advanced and mesmerizing that many of the world’s most perceptive skating minds, including the legendary Robin Cousins, began comparing them to the incomparable: Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, the best ice dance team ever; and Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, the best pairs team of the post-war era.

Virtue and Moir also won the 2010 world championship, to become just the second North American ice dance team to be global champions in one of the most Euro-centric disciplines in all of world sport. The first North American champions were Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz in 2003. Appropriately, Bourne will be one of the hosts of Wednesday’s performance, which will be aired on NBC .

“Shae-Lynn and Kurt Browning emceeing were a huge draw for us to be part of this show,” Moir said. “We have such respect for them. And when we found out that Marina (Zoueva, their choreographer) was involved, we really wanted to be part of it.”

Also appearing in the show are Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who train with Virtue and Moir in Canton, Michigan, and were runners-up at both the Olympics and Worlds, plus 2006 Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin, an ex-pat Canadian, and her partner Ben Agosto. Belbin and Agosto, who set new standards for American ice dancing, formerly trained with Virtue and Moir in Canton.

Sinead and John Kerr, the Scottish brother and sister team who finished fifth in the world skating for Great Britain, will also be at Copps. They’ve built up a huge global following for their entertaining show routines.

There will be eight ice dance teams in all, skating to both live and recorded songs. The Canadian Tenors are the primary musical attraction and Moir is excited about skating to their stunning vocals.

“We’re really jacked about that,” Moir said.

“At the Calgary Stampede we skated to a live band and loved it. It’s almost like having a third party out there on the ice with you.

“This is really a showcase for North American dancing. And it’s great having the Broadway Stars in the show too. We have an inside joke in skating that lots of ice dancing shows have too much ice dancing, but there’ll be some numbers up on stage too.”

Among the off-ice dancers are Alex Ko, who has the lead role in ‘Billy Elliot; the Musical’ on Broadway, Canadian Cody Green who won Bravo Television’s ‘Step it Up and Dance’ and Emily Padgett, currently starring in ‘Rock of Ages’ on Broadway.

Virtue and Moir will also perform their new Short Dance program for the first time before an audience. The Short Dance is the new hybrid segment of Olympic-eligible ice dancing, combining one pass of a compulsory dance (that segment is now dead) with elements of the former Original Dance.

The Canadian ground-breakers are striving to take ice dancing in “the right direction”, with dance-based, athletic numbers brimming with difficult steps and artistry. They want the focus to be on skating, not cheap theatrics.

And they’re constantly being driven by White and Davis, who are after the very same thing….and a world title. The talented Americans actually beat their training mates in the free dance at the 2010 Worlds. But their rivalry doesn’t pinch their friendship.

“The women have a good relationship and Charlie and I are good friends,” Moir says. “We’re both wanna-be hockey players.

“The biggest thing we’ve done well is to have boundaries. All four of us understand that there are certain places we can go and certain places we can’t go and never have. The biggest thing is that we support each other, we never complain behind each other’s backs and never talk each other down. We all give credit where credit is due.

“Even if they weren’t second in the world, I’d want to train in the same rink as Charlie and Meryl. You can’t go in relaxed when they bring their game to the rink.

“They push us, we push them.”

And the biggest beneficiary, even more than Virtue and Moir, has been North American ice dancing.

Need to know

What: Shall We Dance….On Ice?

Where: Copps Coliseum

When: Wednesday, September 22, 7:30 p.m.

Who: Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir; Meryl Davis/Charlie White; Tanith Belbin/Ben Agosto; Sinead and John Kerr; Naomi Lang/Peter Tchernyshev; Kim Navarro/Brent Bommentre; Emily Samuelson/Evan Bates; Alexandra and Roman Zaretsky; Alex Ko, Cody Green, Emily Padgett, Laurie Kanyok, The Canadian Tenors.

How Much: $29, $49, $74 at the box office or Ticketmaster.

Note: The show will shown on NBC Nov. 7 at 4 p.m.

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