Ten Ice Dance couples competed at Skate Canada in Laval, and five of them train together in the Montreal Ice Dance school: Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA), Marie-Jade Lauriault/Romain Le Gac (FRA), Olivia Smart/Adrian Diaz (ESP), Shiyue Wang/Xinyu Liu (CHN) and Carolane Soucisse/Shane Firus (CAN). And that’s just a part of the dance school that was founded by two-time World silver medalists Patrice Lauzon and Marie-France Dubreuil in 2010. Currently there are 18 dance teams from nine countries training in the school – 14 senior teams, three juniors and one novice couple. The most prominent teams right now are three-time World Champions Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron of France and World silver medalists Hubbell/Donohue. The 2018 Olympic Champions Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) also trained in the Montreal school.
“The school has gone through a lot of growth since the Olympics, teams leaving and teams coming. It definitely feels like a fresh start for everyone,” Hubbell said.
“I think that happens any time you have so much success, the top group all going to the same school, everyone is drawn to that, but as we’ve really tried to get across to people, it’s not so much a school as it’s a family,” Donohue added. “The coaches really don’t allow anything outside of respect and diligence and in the way you’re training and compose yourself. It’s a professional atmosphere built on trust and respect and I think because of that, there isn’t a competitive rivalry. Of course, everyone wants to beat everybody else and you want to be the best. We’re not spending 100 000s of dollars to do the sport to just show up and smile. Of course, everyone is there trying the hardest, working their best and they always want to win. But because of that and because of the respect, we encourage each other. The energy in the rink is always about getting further. It’s very motivating to me to be around that energy. Everyone there has someone that’s personally motivating them as well as a whole team behind them supporting them. I think that’s one of the things why this team works so well,” he continued.
Marie-Jade Lauriault/Romain Le Gac (FRA) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
The dancers thrive on that energy and they enjoy competing together like they did at Skate Canada. “It’s really cool, because we’re all doing the same thing like in training and we feel at home. It’s a team that encourages each other a lot. It’s nice in competition, especially when everyone has skated well and is happy with what they’ve done,” Marie-Jade Lauriault pointed out. “Marie-France and Patrice who have founded and built the school, have created a family climate. Yes, we’re a team, but we are more like a family. It’s nice to have everyone around in competition, to eat together. I don’t think there are any disadvantages, it is just that we’re many couples on the ice,” she explained.
Her partner and husband agreed: “Even though we’re focused on ourselves, we’re watching everyone developing and we inspire each other. It think it is important to have a big team.”
The school is based in a rink in Montreal with two ice surfaces and sometimes they use a rink in Laval as well. Ten coaches are working with the skaters - six on-ice coaches plus a ballroom teacher, a contemporary dance teacher, a theater coach and dance teacher.
Shiyue Wang/Xinyu Liu (CHN) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
“The atmosphere is very good. In training we’re all learning from each other and we’re supporting each other. There are a lot of coaches, so there is no problem with not getting enough attention,” Shiyue Wang noted.
“Training with all those guys is just really motivating and pushing us every day even more. We’re all really good friends. We’re all hanging out together outside the rink, so there is no animosity,” Carolane Soucisse said.
“We’re good athletes we understand, that sometimes you can skate better, something it’s the opposite, but at the end of the day we can go out for dinner. There is no bad feeling with any team on the ice or in the lockers,” Adrian Diaz confirmed.
Olivia Smart/Adrian Diaz (ESP) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
The dancers can only think of advantages when asked about their training situation. “The learning Lauriault process, the observation, to compare with other teams, it makes you push yourself and learn things you maybe wouldn’t realize. Like, I always used to train alone, with no other teams, and I prefer when there are more teams on the ice,” Diaz said. “The only time when we get kind of competitive is when we’re joking around. But there’s no bad blood there,” his partner Olivia Smart added.
Patrice Dubreuil with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN) and Marie-France Dubreuil_2018©Jean Catuffe Getty Images
Coach Lauzon also sees the advantage in the big number of teams. “For them (the advantage is) to be able to train with their competitors every day. Actually, they don’t feel too much competitors, it feels like a big family. We have very strict rules to keep the positive energy at the rink and the champions’ attitude. If people argue on the ice or have a bad energy, they have to leave,” he shared. “Everybody pushes each other. Training is hard. Ice dancers spend a lot of time on the ice, have many run-throughs. When you have your closest competitors there, they encourage you, they are applauding when you do something nice and when you have a bad day, they’re helping you through. It helps a lot and everybody gets better. That’s what I like the most about my job, even more than being at the Olympics or Worlds – is watching them every day at the training center, pushing each other and encouraging each other, seeing them passing their limits.”