World ice dance champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron offer sneak peek of new program

Ice Academy of Montreal gives fans rare glimpse inside practice

By Scott Bregman

Figure skating fans got a preview of the upcoming season Friday during a live showcase from the Ice Academy of Montreal, featuring many of the world’s best ice dancers including reigning World champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. Known for their innovative and artistic style on the ice, Papadakis and Cizeron debuted their free dance to dramatic tango music.

“Tango… it’s a theme that’s very mysterious to us. We want to explore it a bit more,” said Cizeron. “We want it to be sensual, passionate and sexy.”

The event, ‘I.AM Live’ offered the skaters the chance to perform for an audience for the first time in months after the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 World Championships in Montreal.

“It’s been a while,” said Papadakis with a laugh before the run-through began. “I thought we were just skating between us, I forgot we were doing it for the public.”

Pushing the envelope

The couple revealed that in addition to the tango free dance, they have also changed their rhythm dance from last season.

“We always love doing new stuff every summer. We didn't feel like we would be really motivated to come back to the ice and do the same thing (from last season) again,” Papadakis told Olympic Channel in an exclusive interview last month.

“The excitement of discovering new movements, pushing the limits of the sport… that's why we do it,” added Cizeron.

The duo have dominated the sport since taking silver at the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang to Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, taking the titles at the 2018 and 2019 Worlds, the 2019 Grand Prix Final and the 2019 European Championships. They finished a surprising second at the European Championships in January before the season ended prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We understand why we didn't win this competition. And I feel like it's past us now. We’re focused on more of what's coming ahead,” said Papadakis.

Immediately ahead is a modified ISU Grand Prix series where athletes will participate in only one event and those events are limited to athletes who train or are from the host country. That means Papadakis and Cizeron are eligible to participate in either Skate Canada (30 October – 1 November) or Internationaux de France (13-15 November).

American Contenders

The top two American ice dance duos from last year’s World Championships Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates also took part in the live showcase. World bronze medallists Hubbell and Donohue debuted a rhythm dance set to ‘Express’ by Christina Aguilera on which choreography had only been finished two weeks ago.

“We thought it would be really fun that you guys see it at the very beginning stages and then you can kind of follow along as we progress through the season,” said Hubbell.

Chock and Bates, who upset Hubbell and Donohue for the U.S. title in January, did not skate in ‘I.AM Live,’ noting that a slight injury kept them out of training until recently.

“We’re all good now,” said Chock.

Bates had a message to figure skating fans missing the sport.

“We just want to wish everyone well and say that we miss you. We miss performing for you,” said Bates. “Sitting in the stands today and watching live skating has been an inspiration to me today. I miss it so much.”