Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were the picture of elegance gliding around the Palavela ice in Turin, Italy — she in glamorous silver and sequins, he in bow tie and tails, their execution of the Golden Waltz exquisite.
But don't be fooled by their polished performance in the compulsory dance that vaulted the Canadians into the lead at the world figure skating championships. Virtue and Moir are far from fans of what they believe is an antiquated element of ice dance and will be thrilled to see it go.
The Golden Waltz, considered one of the most difficult of the compulsories, was created by 1992 Olympic champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko and their coach, Natalia Dubova.
"We think it's a little outdated and I don't think that the results really speak true when they come out after compulsory dances and I don't think it's necessary anymore in today's sport of ice dance," Moir said. "I think it has kind of come a long way and [the compulsory dance] is kind of holding us back.
"That's my opinion, but what do I know, I'm only the Olympic champion," he added, then laughed. "I've never used that before. That's so in every paper tomorrow. I've got to start censoring."
A month after capturing Canada's first Olympic ice dance gold in Vancouver, Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., picked up where they left off, posting a score of 44.13 points for their Golden Waltz, the compulsory dance drawn for the world championships.
Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White, silver medallists in Vancouver and friends and training partners of Virtue and Moir, scored 43.25 to leave them second. Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy go into Thursday's original dance in third with 40.85.
Vanessa Crone of Aurora, Ont., and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., who were 14th at the Vancouver Games, are ninth with 33.32.
Dube, Davison sit 8th in pairs
Canadian teammates Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison were a disappointing eighth in the pairs short program later Tuesday. Dube, from St-Cyrille-de-Wendover, Que., and Davison, from Huntsville, Ont., who were hoping to end their season on a high after finishing sixth in Vancouver, but struggled after Dube fell on her triple Salchow to open the program, and finished with 59.36 points.
Olympic silver medallists Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China led with 75.28 points, while Russia's Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov were second with 73.12. Olympic bronze medallists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy were third with 69.52.
The skaters were performing what might have been the last compulsory dance in international competition. The International Skating Union wants to reduce ice dance to two segments to conform with men's, women's and pairs.
The compulsory program is to ice dance what figures used to be to singles skating, a long afternoon of skaters performing the same steps to music of a specified tempo.
Feelings are split among the skaters if to keep it or scrap it, but there's no question where Virtue and Moir sit. They both say there's too much room for judging interpretation in the compulsory dance.
"I just don't think the results are necessarily true," Moir said. "I still don't think the result at the Olympics after the compulsory dance was accurate, and I wouldn't have had the Russians first. And not that I would have us first either. I see Charlie and Meryl skate every day and I would have them way ahead of [the Russians]."
The Russians are Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, who led after the compulsory dance at the Vancouver Olympics en route to claiming bronze. The reigning world champions, who made headlines this season with their controversial Aboriginal-themed program, aren't skating in Turin, as Shabalin is recovering from a nagging knee injury.
Vote on compulsory dance in June
The ISU will decide in a vote at its congress in June if there's still a place for the compulsory dance. Virtue, 20, and Moir, 22, don't think so, saying it hasn't kept pace under the new judging system implemented in 2004 to prevent partisan judging that ice dance has been infamous for.
"We're hoping that it's true. We're really not holding our breaths to see what the rule changes are, but that's the way it has to be in our opinion," Moir said.
Davis and White, who train with the Canadians in Canton, Mich., and share the same coaches, agree.
"Woo-woo!" Davis said, about skating perhaps his final compulsory dance. "What you do on the ice and what happens on the scoreboard are often two very different things and that's especially true in compulsory dance."
Davis posted a photo on Twitter later of she and Davis and Virtue and Moir with the caption, "We may be done with compulsory dances forever … yes, those are genuine smiles!"
All four skaters complained about the time spent practising the compulsory — two hours a day to do just that since last month's Olympics for Virtue and Moir, who hadn't skated the Golden Waltz since the Trophee Eric Bompard last fall.
"We have had to spend 50 per cent on a compulsory dance that we haven't done since October," Moir said. "It seems a little bit silly at this point, I think it's important for developing stages in figure skating, but at the senior level, it's not accurately judged and I don't think that it's necessary anymore."
Sinead and John Kerr of Great Britain, who were sixth Tuesday, worry without the basic training of the compulsory dance, young skaters will lose out.
"I'm not convinced that some of your greats, Grishuk and Platov, Torvill and Dean, Virtue and Moir, would be as good as they are had they not gone through the compulsory dance training," said John Kerr. "The compulsory dance is the foundation of what we do to do all the sort of cool stuff."
Virtue and Moir are gunning for the one medal that's missing from their considerable collection — a world championship gold. The three-time Canadian champions won silver in 2008 and then bronze last year in Los Angeles, a season shortened when Virtue spent the fall and early winter recovering from surgery on both her legs.