After partnering in 2011, Canadian ice-dancers Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha have steadily risen through the ranks on their way to becoming Olympians. When asked to reflect on the longevity of their partnership, Lajoie says “It gives me confidence when I think like, ‘Okay, some couples are new, [but for] us it’s been more than eleven years that we’re together.’ It’s so easy when you know your partner so well.”
For Lagha, he’s found competing at their current level to be almost surreal. He explained that when he was young watching competitions on TV, he wondered what it would actually be like to compete in them himself. “I think about me at 13 years old, watching Junior Worlds, which was my favourite competition to watch. And now almost 10 years later, I’ve been to all the competitions I watched as a kid. It’s pretty cool.”
Over the course of eleven years together, Lajoie and Lagha won a Junior World title along with six other medals on the Junior circuit. 2022/23 became a “perfect season” for them, winning both of their Challenger Series competitions in the first half of the year, and podiuming at every other competition– finishing the season with their first Senior Championships medal at Four Continents.
After winning Junior Worlds in 2019, Lagha admits there was some internal pressure that came with the title. “There’s so much excitement moving from junior to senior, and it can feel that there are all of these expectations of you, but those are in your head. You go to your first competitions and get slapped, which is normal. It takes a little while, even if you train well, to adjust. I think we’re still adjusting.
Last year we tried to think through every single technical element, and right now it feels more like we just need to create a moment and bring in that artistry, it’s an adjustment to find the balance.”
Throughout their career, the team has never limited themselves to just one style. In the last three seasons alone, they’ve skated to the fast-paced soundtrack from West Side Story, portrayed birds with their Rio free dance, and this year debuted programs with a Cha Cha Slide/Samba rhythm dance in addition to a more classical Nureyev free, with the latter being their favorite. The pair is hopeful to stay with the classical approach in the future, but feel that their ability to engage with many different styles is one of their strengths.
In terms of their program choices, coach and choreographer Romain Haguenauer usually finds music for the team, which they then have the option of vetoing.
However, Lajoie says “Usually [Romain] finds his way to convince us anyway. Like the bird year, I remember Zak was like, no, no, and then finally, I don’t know how he convinced Zak, but he did. So he had a plan and I’m very grateful that we followed it because we had very good results with it.”
Do you maybe keep a diary or keep something to remember all of your experiences? Or do you keep any memorabilia from where you travel?
Marjorie: For me, it’s the pictures. So it’s not like something I buy, but it’s really the pictures and I like to go back and just look at the pictures that I took of the places that I go.
Zachary: I keep my competition accreditation, and I put them in a box, I have all of them.
This season, the Rhythm Dance saw a major change with the removal of the pattern dance element, resulting in mixed reactions from skaters as well as fans. For Lagha, he sees both sides of the argument. When asked about the changes, he says that he feels, “It helps some couples who maybe have more difficulties with the pattern dance, and I think we’re one of them, so we’re happy about it. But I don’t think it’s good for development, because part of becoming great skaters involves mastering how to execute the technicalities of the sport.” However, he says “It is much more fun to do a rhythm dance without the pattern.” Lajoie agrees, “It’s much more interesting for the public.” Speaking on the choice of their free dance music, Lagha said:
I feel like this program helps us realize something. I feel like before we’ve been training really hard to focus on strength, because our programs were really physical. But in this program, you cannot do that. You have to be relaxed, you have to be loose, almost like water. So I think this program kind of helped us realise that it’s good to be strong but at the same time, you also have to be flexible and relaxed and loose.
What was your favourite country that you competed in this year?
Marjorie: At Four Continents I really liked to go to the Garden of the Gods. That was beautiful. I had the full day with my mum, so I think that was very, very pretty. I’m glad I I went to see that.
Zachary: I think the most beautiful city that we went to this year was Budapest. There’s so much history and the food is amazing. It’s like those typical Eastern European countries that have beautiful cities. You walk in the city and it almost looks like a museum. So I think that was my favourite city.
Away from the ice, both Lajoie and Lagha train in a number of different dance styles. Lajoie shares, “We try to do some of everything. For me, the most important thing is to have my body healthy. Because if you move and you’re not flexible, or you’re hurt, that’s when I think you cannot dance. So for me my priority is to keep my body healthy to be able to dance.”
Lagha added that he does a lot of contemporary dance, now studying it at Concordia University, “It’s helped me a lot because it was a big weakness.”
The start of 22/23 season, with four competitions in seven weeks, was their plan coming into the year. They say, “The strategy was to start late, make sure that our base is good, and then from there, start the season.” After those competitions, they made changes to the programs to make them more comfortable. At Canadian Nationals, the team earned their second silver medal as seniors, missing out on the National title by less than one point. They explain, “We always believed we could get close to Lolo and Nik [Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sørensen], although we still have a lot to improve on to get to their level. But just the fact that we were able to win the free was a big, big victory for us, because it means that we’re getting closer to where we want to be.”
Lajoie and Lagha finished off their season in Colorado Springs, at the Four Continents Championships. Lagha says they set goals with their coaches at the beginning of the season, “And I think that for the first time in our life we met all of our goals for every single competition.” Lajoie added that she, “Feels like this season we grew a lot and we accomplished everything we wanted to accomplish. I don’t think we could have had better results.”
We’re doing everything that’s possible to get our chance, to maybe have a podium at the Olympics in 2026, which will be really cool. Right now, with our results, we cannot do more. This is the max we can, so we’re doing a good job.
What was your favourite competition of the season?
Marjorie: Four Continents. I loved every competition. But what was special is that we knew it was our last one. And we really liked this year’s programs, so to perform them for the last time, and to do it so well. For me, it was just like, the best ending of this season.
Zachary: I think it’s Sheffield. We did okay, how we skated was fine, but it was just the atmosphere and I met a lot of cool people there. I had a lot of friends and the organisation was surprisingly good.
Follow Marjorie and Zak!
Subscribe to our Patreon to get the exclusive full audio of the interview! (Part 1, recorded at GP Sheffield)
Part 2 of the interview (recorded in February 2023) is published on YouTube!