DiManno: Virtue and Moir melt the ice with raw, sensual performances
They say they’re not a couple, retaining a coyness when discussing their relationship. But it’s just enough to leave us wondering: Did they or didn’t they?
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PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA—Is it real or is it just 50 shades of tease?
We want it to be real, the ice-dance passion between Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, rather than just a passion play.
The way they look into one another’s eyes, the caresses, his hands here and here, her hands there and there; how they insinuate smoulder with their interwoven bodies, the intimacy of their touches, a kind of raw sensuality.
They’ve generated so much heat in their iconic programs but probably never so much as in Roxanne, their free dance from the “Moulin Rouge” soundtrack, ripe performance art-athleticism that will bring down the curtain on their competitive career — for-real for-real this time — on Tuesday, perchance, probably, with a second Olympic gold.
Comfortably in front of their French rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron after Monday’s short-dance segment, which had turned into a bit of cheap-thrills burlesque when the bodice of her costume came undone, exposing one coldly erect nipple.
Of course, in ice dance it’s all about emotional trompe l’oeil, spinning an artifice, projecting a narrative on ice, often imbued with romantic subtext.
Moir and Virtue say they’re not a couple, have never been, at least not since he was about nine and she was seven, and they shared an off-ice kiss. But maybe it’s a failure of how we, the gazers, interpret “couple” in the conventional sense. Because they’ve been together longer than many marriages last, know every dimple and curve of each other’s bodies, have explored them on the ice.
They just fit so well, unlikely ever to find that kind of grace-note synergy with anybody else in an off-ice partnership.
For all their insistence that no romance has ever flourished, they retain a coyness when discussing their relationship, just enough to leave us wondering: Did they or didn’t they?
The love, though, that’s genuine.
“If we don’t have love for each other . . . do you know what we’ve been through together?” asks Moir.
Of course we know: living in the very puff of each other’s breath all these years, growing up and maturing, Moir shadow-dancing in practice in the difficult years, arms empty as Virtue recovered from surgery to her shins.
“There’s a certain amount of it that’s real,” Moir said carefully Sunday. “You’re right, we don’t have to fake the feeling of looking into each other’s eyes and feeling something. I mean, that’s a joy. It’s been a joy our whole career.”
They finish each other’s sentences, find each other’s hands whether on or off the ice. She’s never stopped laughing at his jokes. He’s never stopped admiring her beauty and intelligence.
Yet he characterizes their yoking as a “business relationship”, as in Virtue & Moir Productions.
“We’ve spent hours in dark, crappy hockey rinks doing programs like this to be in this limelight and to enjoy this moment together,” said Moir, after they’d just unspooled a short dance wherein the picked up Level 4s for all their element, breaking their own world record — despite the best under-scoring efforts of the French and American judges — by plumping out a score of 83.67, followed by the French at 81.93 and Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue sitting third with 77.75.
“That’s what we skate for. So I’m hoping that’s the spark that you see.”
It’s more than a spark, though. It’s a white flame, even in the context of usually over-wrought ice dance, which too often resembles panto, emoting to beat the band.
Powerful and erotic, their dazzling short, with its intricate footwork and a whiplash rotational lift.
“Really, the whole premise of our short dance this year is transferring Latin ballroom dancing onto the ice,” explains Virtue, as if it’s all quite simple and straightforward — without a single straightforward step sequence. “The storyline isn’t quite as complex as our free dance is. It’s more movement-based and really trying to get that message across, that it’s as if you were watching a ballroom team compete.”
Well, maybe in a bawdy-room team compete, the way Virtue all but licks her fingers to start the routine, gyrates her hips, curls into Moir’s neck.
“The rumba is a very sensual, sexual dance — samba, cha-cha rhythms are fun,” Virtue says, as if everybody should get that, zesty rhythm and the beat, hot-hot-hot. “It’s kind of an easy program to engage the audience, especially one as electric as this one.”
The tandem performed both these programs last week, their contribution to the team event gold snatched by Canada. “We actually didn’t watch our performances from the team event just because it’s too close,” Moir discloses. “We usually don’t like watching our tape so we decided just to put our faith in Patrice and Marie-France and we’re very pleased with the cues that they’ve given us.”
Marie-France and Patrice Lauzon, their husband-and-wife co-coaches, known for the voluptuousness of their routines when they were competing and winning a pair of world silvers.
“We knew right after both of our performances (from the team event) that we could do better,” says Virtue, “just making sure we take advantage of every point.
“As well as that sensual feeling in a short dance, what you have is a ton of athleticism. Once you start, you keep going. We were really trying to drive the power and speed more today. We knew we’d need that against the French. We’ll be looking to do the same thing (Tuesday).”
A good decision, they agreed, leaving the Olympics bubble to train in Seoul, beyond the distraction of the Games.
“Much as we didn’t want to miss a minute of being in the village and really embracing everything that the Olympics has to offer, it was really important to step away, especially after the team event. There’s always a bit of a crash after the competition.”
Moir: “Oh yes, there was, a big one …”
So they shifted to a hotel, luxuriating in king-sized beds, room-service, and three hours of private ice-time a day, compared with the half-hour they’d have been slotted for training sessions under the Olympic dome.
The duo are accustomed to training with their French archrivals, having done the same in Michigan for years with Meryl Davis and Charlie White, to whom they lost gold in Sochi, with some words of discontent afterwards about their shared coach Marina Zoueva, suggesting she’d been too preoccupied with the Americans to give them proper attention.
“It’s all we’ve known,” notes Virtue. “Our whole career we’ve trained with our competitors from the get-go, so it’s not foreign territory by any means.”
Fielding queries about the exact nature of their relationship is familiar territory as well. Virtue has called it “complicated”, this thing they have. Pushed on the matter Monday by reporters, Virtue slid away adroitly. “I’m sensing a theme here,” she smiled.
More a yearning for a love story that would extend beyond their third Olympics, a together forever after.
The ice dance final and a career finale.
Missing them already.
Here’s looking at you, lovers or not.