J. Barry Mittan, the Electronic Photojournalist

Dancing with Emotion by J. Barry Mittan (1999)

After three years as the fourth place dance team in Canada, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon are preparing to make a move onto the podium. The couple just missed a bronze medal in 1999 when a fall near the end of their free dance allowed Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe to move past them at Canadian Nationals. With the perennial silver medallists, Chantal Lefebvre and Michel Brunet, now retired, both teams are in a close battle for the second spot at Worlds behind Shae Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz. So far this season, Dubreuil and Lauzon are ahead, beating Wing and Lowe at Skate Canada (4th to 5th) and finishing higher at the Cup of Russia (5th) than Wing and Lowe did at Trophee Lalique (8th).

The dancers are focused solely on medals. "We hope to go to Worlds," Dubreuil said, " but we want to take one thing at a time and enjoy the moment. The the emotion shows more." Both dancers like to show their emotions on the ice. "Ice dancing is the only sport where you get to be physical and express your feelings," Lauzon said. "It's the perfect mix of athleticism and art," Marie-France added. "I have to skate to romantic and dramatic music I really feel or I can't move my feet on the ice. I have to love it."

The couple's free dance is to music from the soundtrack of the movie "Life is Beautiful." "When we saw the movie, we knew in the first 30 minutes that we wanted to skate to it," Patrice said. "We went and bought the CD and took it to our coach (Sylvie Fullum) and she loved it." The search for music for the Latin original dance medley was a bit harder. "Sylvie wanted something in an African Latin style," Patrice noted. "We looked in a big music store in Montreal that let's us exchange CDs and bought many CDs before we found the right music. We always pick our own music."

Murielle Boucher-Zazouvi choreographs all their dances although they occasionally do some of their own choreography for shows. In last year's free dance to the "Last Temptation of Christ", Lauzon performs an unusual opening lift. "I was in bed one night and just saw it," he said. "We wanted something that looked like a cross."

The couple's desire for emotion in their dancing carries over into their compulsories. "The Tango Romantica is our favorite," Lauzon said. "It's a very romantic tango and we look really French so it's for us." "It's a very challenging dance," Marie-France added, "but there's time for expression. We don't really like the waltzes, like the Viennese and the Westminster. We have to hold back. Those dances really don't fit on the ice."

Neither of the skaters originally intended to go into ice dancing. Lauzon played defense in hockey and took figure skating classes to improve his hockey skating. He still plays for fun. He skated in singles until he was 12, when someone asked him to skate with a girl. Since he didn't like freestyle that much, he agreed to become a dancer. Marie-France had watched skating on television since she was two and asked for lessons for her birthday when she was five. Her mother didn't want her to skate competitively, but her godmother gave her skates for a present and her career began. She also participated in gymnastics when she was six, but quit when she saw another girl fall on her head. Marie-France skated freestyle until she was ten, when she asked to switch to dance. She and Patrice have skated together since 1996.

The dancers spend between one and five hours a day on ice, sometimes more if something need to be done. Off ice, they work in the gym with a personal trainer in a special exercise program four times a week, doing exercises that involve lifting their own weight. They also do ballet twice a week, a regimen Dubreuil started at six, and Lauzon at 15. To refine their dance moves, the dancers work with Majoli, a professional dancer.

Dubreuil and Lauzon hope to have a professional skating career if things go their way, but if not, they want to continue in the sport as coaches. Both now teach children at the Center Elite Boucherville and do some choreography for novice dancers. Working is nothing new for Lauzon, who chose to pay his own way at 15 and quit school to concentrate on work and skating. He changes tires and fixes cars in a garage to support their training costs. Dubreuil attended college for a year, but stopped because she couldn't do both. "I like to learn," she said. "I read a lot of books and magazines on psychology."

The duo became a couple off ice as well as on when they competed at the Golden spin of Zagreb in 1996, where they finished second. "We went expecting the worst, but it's a great city with sidewalk cafes everywhere. We started going together there and it has a special place in our hearts," Marie-France exclaimed. To relax, the couple spends time together in their small apartment, often playing with their Burmese mountain dog. Sometimes they go to the movies. "Not action movies with blood and stuff, but French and Italian and British movies -- unpredictable movies, different than American movies," Dubreuil stated. After skating, she often listens to classical music, but listens to different music depending on the time of the day. "I like songs with words and meaning," she said. Patrice listens mainly to classic 1980s rock. "When I want to relax, I go to the garage and rebuild cars by myself, like I'm working in a little bubble," he explained.

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