Like most Canadians, my life trajectory was dramatically altered by watching Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir compete at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Specifically, their breathtaking and technically flawless final free dance program set to “Come What May” and “El Tango De Roxanne” from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. I’m not sure I fully anticipated how culturally significant this performance would be as I first watched it live, but as I lie awake dreaming of their free dance five years later, I am certain that Tessa and Scott’s Moulin Rouge will be remembered and treasured until the end of time.
Tessa and Scott: A Crash Course
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, deemed “Canada’s Sweethearts”, began their ice dance careers together when Tessa was only seven years old and Scott was nine. Paired together by Scott’s aunt, history was being made in the small Ontario towns of Ilderton and London as Tessa and Scott developed their partnership that would last 22 years through childhood and adulthood. Like any young and determined athlete, competing at the Olympics was the goal, and one they succeeded at more than anybody could have guessed. The pair danced their way from Ontario to their Olympic debut in Vancouver 2010, and were the first North Americans to win Olympic gold in ice dance. Additionally, they were the first and youngest team to win gold in Vancouver. They went on to become highly decorated athletes, winning World Championships, other Olympic achievements, and much more. However, their strength in the sport is not what made them stand-outs throughout their career, but their chemistry and charisma, which shocked the ice dance world and won the hearts of Canadians. People fell in love with the two skaters for their artistry, athleticism, and the obvious love they had for each other. Tessa and Scott brushed off relationship rumours from the beginning to end of their partnership, claiming they were never anything but friends and partners (not considering a brief romance they shared as children). This did not stop fans from yearning for them to be together throughout the years, and enthusing over the intense romantic elements in most of their programs. It’s true, the pair did not refrain from appearing intimate on or off the ice. However, nothing they’ve ever done compares to the passion and heart-wrenching devotion they delivered in Moulin Rouge.
Moulin Rouge: An Analysis
Honestly, you don’t need me to explain how amazing this performance is. All you need to do is see for yourself.
Nevertheless, I will ramble on about my favourite elements of this program anyway. Mostly because I can’t stop myself.
Firstly, the musicality and storytelling. Moulin Rouge (the movie) is absolutely iconic for its uplifting love story and soul-crushing tragedy. In other words, choosing it as inspiration to execute on the ice (or anywhere, really) is a tall order to fill. It seems only fitting that Tessa and Scott would be the ones to not only execute it well, but reinvent it into their own timeless masterpiece. In the first half of the program, set to “El Tango De Roxanne”, Tessa and Scott are ablaze with a fervent intensity that the music requires. The song has the potential to easily overpower the skaters, but their sharp movements, intricate details, and attention-grabbing choreography enhances the storytelling and demonstrates how the right song can heighten an artistic performance.
In the second half, “Come What May” alters the energy from chaotic and passionate intensity to guttural, slow intimacy. We see the beginnings of tragedy, captured in desperate facial expressions and how they reach for each other. The story unfolds beautifully right before us, and it is impossible to look away. As the ballad continues, we can even see Scott singing the lyrics to Tessa, “I will love you until my dying day”. If that doesn’t make your heart rate increase, I don’t know what will. The program ends with a bang, as Tessa(‘s character) dramatically dies in Scott’s arms, reflecting the movie’s depressing finish (oops, spoiler alert). As a viewer, you’re left reeling from the emotional four-minute rollercoaster you were taken on, likely with tears running down your face.
Another mentionable element of this program is the choreography. As I’ve implied, it’s insane. Each move has an intentionality that drives the storytelling forward, but more than that, it’s just simply beautiful to watch. Tessa and Scott effective and impressive use the tension of negative space to pull on spectators’ heartstrings, and their gracefulness is offers you moments to catch your breath through it all. There are a few choreography elements in the routine that have since become completely iconic, namely that one lift with Tessa’s on Scott’s shoulders, that other lift where she stands on his thighs, and of course the “Roxanne” twizzles that automatically elicits cheering every time.
Finally, the last most notable element of Tessa and Scott’s Moulin Rouge is what the routine means to them and their careers, to Canada, and to ice dance. As I’ve said, this routine holds a lot of cultural significance on multiple dimensions. Although we were unaware at the time, this skate would be the last competitive performance of Tessa and Scott’s, as they announced their retirement a year later. Fittingly, Moulin Rouge was the final performance of the very last ice dance event in Pyeongchang, which made the viewing experience inhumanely suspenseful and extremely exciting when they received their scores. Finishing their careers on the highest note, Moulin Rouge earned them the Olympic gold and broke several personal and world records. This last dance seemed to bundle up two decades of greatness and encase it in shiny permanence, which is likely emotional for them and certainly emotional for me. Tessa and Scott’s unique and unprecedented excellence (in both the sport and in athlete humility) has been said to have changed ice dance forever, pushing boundaries and simultaneously moulding the next generations of skaters to come. For all of Canada, Tessa and Scott are celebrated as national legends who have represented the country with honour and dignity. They were honoured by Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2019, and continue to be regarded as national symbols.
Where I’m At Now
While it is among my greatest hopes and dreams that Tessa and Scott surprise the world with a competitive comeback, I unfortunately do not foresee this happening anytime in the future. So, I wish for Tessa and Scott to enjoy retirement, as they’ve most certainly earned it. Hopefully, though, one day we will see them take the ice together again just for fun. Until then, I will be content rewatching their old performances and thinking of them at every mention of Moulin Rouge.
Author Maureen Lee Lenker By Maureen Lee Lenker February 21, 2018 at 06:23 P. M. E. S. T. (n.d.). Continue your Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir shipping theories with their reality series. EW.com. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://ew.com/tv/2018/02/21/tessa-virtue-scott-moir-2014-reality-series/
Crabtree, E. (2018, February 20). Are olympic ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir dating? Us Weekly. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.usmagazine.com/entertainment/news/tessa-virtue-scott-moir-dodge-relationship-questions/
Curtis, C. (2018, February 21). Are Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir dating? here are 7 quotes to help you decide. USA Today. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://ftw.usatoday.com/2018/02/winter-olympics-2018-ice-dancing-are-tessa-virtue-scott-moir-dating-quotes-videos-photos
Khandelwal, P. (2018, February 23). The incredible story of Canadian skater pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s two-decade-old journey. Indian Women Blog – Stories of Indian Women. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.indianwomenblog.org/the-incredible-story-of-canadian-skater-pair-tessa-virtue-and-scott-moirs-two-decade-old-journey/
Longman, J. (2018, February 20). Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are ice dancing’s king and queen. The New York Times. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/20/sports/olympics/tessa-virtue-scott-moir-gold-ice-dancing.html