Dubreuil and Lauzon: from Canadian champs to global gurus of the ice dance

In increasing numbers, ice dancers from around the world are beating a path to the door of married Quebeckers Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon.

When 2010 Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir decided to return to competition for next season, they chose their longtime friends and mentors Dubreuil and Lauzon.

Dubreuil and Lauzon were formidable competitors, winning two world silver medals and five Canadian titles with soulful routines and nosebleed lifts during their long career. And now, working out of the Gadbois Centre in Montreal, they have attracted enough quality skaters – or skaters they have turned into world-class skaters – that they are fielding five teams in the ice dancing event at the world championships.

“It was a long day,” Dubreuil said after the short dance Wednesday. “And it’s only 3 o’clock [p.m.].”

Dubreuil and Lauzon, married in 2008, coach Canadian bronze medalists Elisabeth Paradis and Francois-Xavier Ouellette, who were first to skate among 30 in the short dance. They also train French champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron – the reigning world champions, who skated last.

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, of France, compete during the Ice Dance short program at the World Figure Skating Championships, Wednesday, March 30, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, of France, compete during the Ice Dance short program at the World Figure Skating Championships, Wednesday, March 30, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Heading into Thursday night’s free dance, Papadakis and Cizeron are leading the world by 1.59 points ahead of U.S. champions Maia and Alex Shibutani.

Papadakis and Cizeron have been their best advertisement. They were world junior champions who had finished 13th at their world senior debut in 2013-2014. Last year, in their first Montreal season, Papadakis and Cizeron shocked the world by winning the world title, an unprecedented leap in this ethereal discipline.

In the short dance, their first-place finish was “a nice surprise,” Dubreuil said. After Papadakis suffered a serious concussion last August, they did not even compete until French nationals in December.  This championship in Boston is only their second international test. In their first, they won the European title.

Even though the French won the European title, their Canadian coaches weren’t satisfied. Dubreuil said they made small changes, altering the composition of the music at the end of their routine, so that the energy of it became more uplifting and positive.  The team also worked on improving the fluidity and quality of speed and edges, even the upper-body positions.

At one point, judges told the team that perhaps they should opt for a more traditional waltz than their “Charms” by Abel Korzeniowski, and a march written by Montreal music guru Hugo Chouinard, to make it more comparable to others. But the French and the French-Canadians took the road less travelled, and stuck with a more dramatic presentation that suits Papadakis’ passionate French-Greek heritage.

“We said, you know what? Gabby and Guillaume don’t want to be like anybody else, so let’s stick to our march,” Dubreuil said. “It’s contemporary and difficult. And let’s just do it to the maximum of what they can do. I’m really happy it paid off.”

And the costume change? Dubreuil likes Cizeron to skate in a black outfit because it emphasizes his lines. Fortunately, the French team has a built-in costume designer: Cizeron.

“He’s a really good clothes designer,” Dubreuil said. “He designs costumes for the both of them. He wanted a cream. But after Europeans, I said: ‘You know what, sweetie? I want you in black.’”

Papadakis did not want a dress that looked like a skating dress at all. Cizeron gave her something simple and elegant.

Dubreuil insists she had good raw material in the twosome to start with. Cizeron’s body is flexible and strong at the same time. And Papadakis has a very fluid upper body.

“She can follow him,” Dubreuil said. “He can change 20 steps and she would be right there beside him. She’s one of the best followers I’ve ever seen in my whole life. She’s right there, no matter what he does."

Now Dubreuil and Lauzon have to find a way to help Papadakis and Cizeron master the position in which they find themselves: in first place after the short dance at a world championship. Last year, they came from fourth.

‘It’s a lot of different stress,” Dubreuil said. “Let’s see what happens.”