Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue
Official Website - 2012-2017 U.S. Ice Dance Medalists and 2014 ISU Four Continents Ice Dance Champions
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Madi & Zach
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“If we skate in the moment, that’s where the magic comes”
Third-place showing in short dance validates Madi and Zach's hard work behind the scenes
March 31, 2017 - Webmaster Update
Congratulations to Madi and Zach on a third-place showing in the short dance at the 2017 ISU World Figure Skating Championships!
In earning an international personal-best score of 76.53 points, Madi and Zach showcased their masterful edging, commanding ice coverage, and authentic interpretation. They achieved Level 4s on all but one of their elements, including a technical score for their twizzle sequence that was the highest in the entire field.
At an ISU press conference, Madi remarked, "We've worked for this exact moment. We've put a lot time into our preparation, mentally as well as physically."
"In the last month since Four Continents, Zachary and I have really worked with our coaches on changing our mentality around our skating in general, but especially with this short dance. We're always trying to do more or be more, and we had to step back and realize that we were enough, and we just had to be us, and really hone this dance."
"I feel like we owe it to each other just much as we owe it to Marie-France [Dubreuil] in particular. She really helped us and pushed us to not give up on it. There were definitely some tough moments in the season where we felt like maybe we just needed to go with the current, the way things were going. She's been there every day, encouraging us to embrace what we originally believed, the ideas we have, and our own creative vision. It is definitely a gratifying way to end the season and I know they're enjoying this moment with us as well."
They are joined at the top of the standings by their great friends and training mates Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, and Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France. They all train at the Centre Gadbois in Montréal under coaches Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, and Romain Hagenauer.
Madi and Zach will finish the competition with their free dance tomorrow, Saturday, April 1st. They look forward to taking all your best hopes and wishes to heart in delivering another rewarding performance for you, their fans. Also, many thanks to the commentators at British Eurosport for your high praise and insightful, constructive feedback! For more information on Madi and Zach's preparations leading up to Worlds, please see the three-part update below.
Madi and Zach enter Worlds with redoubled confidence and fitness
March 28, 2017 - Webmaster Update - First in a series of three updates
Madi and Zach have arrived in Helsinki, Finland for the 2017 ISU World Figure Skating Championships. They will represent the United States of America in the ice dance competition which begins on Friday, March 31st.
They qualified for Worlds in January at the 2017 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Kansas City where they finished a strong third, scoring a career-best 191.42 points. The following month, they achieved a career-best international score of 180.82 points in placing fourth at the 2017 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Gangneung, South Korea, which were held in the same arena that will host next year’s Olympic figure skating competition.
In a recent media conference call and IceNetwork podcast, Madi and Zach revealed that, leading up to Four Continents, they felt that they had achieved personal breakthroughs in their training. While they admit that they “tried to go for it a bit too much” during the event, they were nevertheless so encouraged by their momentum that they didn’t take any time off afterwards, instead capitalizing on their improved energy and confidence and continuing to train at this newfound high level. After Four Continents, Madi and Zach tweaked a few details in their programs. They now feel that both their programs are the complete “final package.”
Moreover, alongside their coaches and ice dance training mates from Montréal, they participated in a pre-Worlds training camp in Kingston, Ontario with Toronto-based coaches, choreographers, and skaters, including Brian Orser, Tracy Wilson, David Wilson, Javier Fernandez, Javier Raya, Gabrielle Daleman, Lubov Ilyushechkina, and Dylan Moscovitch. Not only did Madi and Zach benefit from receiving feedback from different coaches with different perspectives, they also benefited from their work alongside singles and pair skaters, who collectively reminded and inspired each other about their reasons and motivations for working and training so intensively at the uppermost echelons of figure skating.
Madi and Zach enter Worlds feeling extremely well-prepared physically, and having made significant strides in the mental aspects of their skating. In particular, they look forward to skating with full emotional vulnerability while at the same time executing all the elements at the highest levels. They feel that “if we skate in the moment, that’s where the magic comes.”
Furthermore, Madi and Zach believe that they are capable of exceptional results at Worlds. They feel that they are able to compete at the highest level of skating, and that they belong in any conversation about the top teams in the world. Rather than limiting themselves into any preconceived place in the pecking order, they feel that the best way to approach the competition is to see no barriers or walls around them, instead identifying and seizing every opportunity for success.
Already, their scores and performances this season reflect the tremendous ongoing progress they’re making in Montréal with coaches Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, and Romain Hagenauer. With strong performances at these World Championships, Madi and Zach look forward to showing their fans and supporters the full results and benefits of their work.
More background on Madi and Zach’s short and free dances this season
March 29, 2017 – Webmaster Update – Second in a series of three updates
This season, Madi and Zach’s short dance creatively combines the ISU’s required rhythms of blues and hip hop. It’s the product of Madi’s desire to skate to a classic blues selection, Zach’s love of hip hop, and coach Marie-France Dubreuil’s alignment of their interests. Madi helped put together the music by gathering chart-topping hits from different decades. Together with their coaches, Madi and Zach ultimately settled on Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” for the blues, while for the hip hop, they chose MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby.”
While Madi, Zach, and their coaches “knew from the start that it would be hit or miss,” and that many wouldn't like their music choices at first, their coaches agreed that if there was a year to experiment with different styles and music, then this was the year to do so. In particular, Madi and Zach felt that with the required hip hop rhythm, "the ISU is asking for this." Even though hip hop generally lends itself to sharp movements, which are at odds with the long gliding movements typically seen in figure skating, Madi and Zach decided to have fun with the concept and involve the audience, all while including a nod to a more classic era with their blues selection.
Madi and Zach have always had backup music prepared that they knew would be "safe," and after each event, they had to make a decision about whether to scrap their short dance or to keep and evolve it. They didn't back away from the challenge and are proud of soldiering on with their program. They feel all the more vindicated knowing that the program is growing even on those who didn’t like it at first.
Meanwhile, Madi and Zach’s free dance this season seeks to capture their “individual spirits.” In weaving together Bootstrap’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” Ingrid Michaelson’s “Can't Help Falling in Love,” and Bootstrap’s “Earned It,” they alternate male and female voices, and have crafted a truly personal and emotional program that not only reflects the singers’ points of view, but also relates to Madi and Zach’s own deeply-felt experiences. The result is a “euphoric moment” where “everything comes together” and Madi and Zach can’t help flooding the entire arena with their emotions and their physicality.
After Four Continents, Madi and Zach worked with Samuel Chouinard, who choreographed their short dance, to create more contrast between the first three minutes of the program and the final, ending music selection of the program. The goal was to avoid a one-level feeling for the entire four minutes, and to add more linear movements into the final minute of the program so as to create a markedly different impression that is more “impactful” and “proud.” Madi and Zach have greatly enjoyed working with Sam, who leverages his dance background to ensure that their overall body movement relates well with the music and captures all its nuances, in particular highlighting specific musical cues and suggesting particular shapes to go along with the music.
An inspired training environment in Montréal is key to Madi and Zach’s success
March 30, 2017 – Webmaster Update – Third in a series of three updates
Madi and Zach’s strong results this season and last reflect the tremendous progress they continue to make at their training base in Montréal under the guidance of coaches Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, and Romain Hagenauer. At the Centre Gadbois, Madi and Zach train alongside top ice dance teams such as Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.
In total, Madi and Zach are part of a training camp that includes seven world-class ice dance teams. While the ice at the Centre Gadbois isn’t big enough for all seven teams at once, there are always multiple teams doing run-throughs or cross-training together at any given time. Madi and Zach never feel “crowded,” and they alternate training sessions with different teams, all of whom are “very friendly and motivating.” Madi is particularly close friends with Gabriella, and they actually miss each other when they’re not training on the same ice at the same time. All the teams make an effort to watch and encourage each other, clapping for each others’ run-throughs and giving each other positive, constructive feedback, especially on difficult days.
Moreover, Madi and Zach’s coaches make sure never to compare them to anyone else. They do their best to make each of their teams the absolute best they can be. In particular, their coaches have pushed them to avoid boxing themselves into a certain placement in the U.S. or globally, and to instead believe that “anything’s possible” – including a Worlds podium finish – at a time when the gaps among the top ice dance teams in the world are narrowing. With respect to the increasing depth of the ice dance field both in the U.S. and around the world, Madi and Zach believe that, under the new scoring system, if "people see the opportunity that if they work, they'll get rewarded for it." Every team has the incentive to be as competitive as possible.
Among their coaches, Zach looks up to Patrice as a “huge coach and mentor” who has changed his view of what his role in the partnership is. Meanwhile, Marie-France provides a very reassuring presence, encouraging Madi and Zach to enjoy and be present in each moment of every run-through, and to personalize each moment of the performance so that they’re not just thinking about the elements and the points. Moreover, Madi and Zach feel that “Marie-France has a way of choosing the correct programs.” She puts a lot of work into “creating connections with the music” and is always “looking for that magic moment” by paying attention to what generates reactions in both the skaters and the audience. Because they have developed a truly organic connection to their programs, Madi and Zach are able to enjoy them more “so that it's not just a competition.”
Step sequences are some of the technical elements that Madi and Zach have improved upon in Montréal. In competitions, they feel that the technical panel usually looks for easy glides into edges without the application of too much weight. Madi and Zach have learned to “be calm” and to trust that they have the “right talent and capability to execute the elements.” Only when they doubt their capabilities does their skating become “forced” and “snowy.” To improve on all their elements, Madi and Zach have also sought the feedback of judges and callers through monitoring sessions.
Leading up to Worlds, Madi and Zach ramped up to a period of “peak training” where they not only ran through each of their programs every day of the week, but also followed each program run-through with an immediate repeat of the final two-thirds of the program. Combined with lots of cardio cross-training, these rigorous workouts encourage Madi and Zach to be “calm and precise,” and to avoid giving into mental struggles like “the devil on the shoulder telling us to race to the end.”
The results that Madi and Zach have achieved in Montréal build on the “magic” and chemistry that they have always felt since the start of their partnership. Madi and Zach feel that they are both strong people who often take turns in leading in the partnership. This intensity, coupled with their ongoing growth as individuals and as a team, has evolved into something that’s “super special” whenever they take the ice – something that will be in full display as they take the ice tomorrow for their fourth appearance at Worlds.
Commanding the attention of the skating world
Madi and Zach’s hard work leading to significantly improved scores and results
January 21, 2017 - Webmaster Update
Madi and Zach have arrived in Kansas City in top shape for the 2017 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships. In the short dance on Friday, January 20th, they brought the Sprint Center audience to their feet with a sizzling blues pattern and a crowd-pleasing hip-hop medley. Technically, they achieved Level 4 on all their elements, and they showcased their signature deep edges; commanding speed, power, and extension; and exceptionally difficult, close holds.
Madi and Zach’s efforts were rewarded with a personal-best score of 79.72, which places them third, only 2.70 points off the lead. They look forward to improving upon their short dance with an even stronger free dance. If you can’t see them live in Kansas City, please be with them in spirit by tuning in to NBC today, Saturday, January 21st, for a live national broadcast from 4-6pm Eastern Time. Regardless of where you are, please double check your local TV listings.
Career-best result at ISU Grand Prix Final
Madi and Zach come into Nationals on the heels of a career-best result at last month’s ISU Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France, where they earned 179.59 points in placing fifth overall. Both their programs, in particular their free dance, drew lavish praise from commentators at NBC and British Eurosport.
Madi and Zach have improved significantly at each of their outings this season. With a strong finish at Nationals, they hope to qualify for future international events; in turn, they hope to demonstrate continued progress and reward their fans, their direct supporters, and U.S. Figure Skating for their continued support.
Art by Numbers
An exclusive blog entry from Madi providing insight into this year's short dance
December 8, 2016 - by Madison Hubbell
I had this phrase pop into my head earlier in the season, “Art By Numbers.” Do you know those colouring books? They have a colour chart in the corner, and if you complete the picture correctly, it would end up looking exactly as it should.
I never liked those. I grew up in a creative house, with parents who always valued self expression and variety. I think this is part of why I feel that I belong so well in Montréal with Team MISS (Montréal International Skating School). Here, the coaches have supported me and Zach, and reminded us that there are no limits. There is not one right way to get the job done even when you feel that the rulebook says otherwise. So, at the beginning of this season, we all decided to create a program that was risky, fun, and colouring way outside the lines.
The way we see it, this is the best year to take a risk like our short dance. Next season we will have to make the best and most competitive decisions for the Olympics. But here we are, with a year to experiment, and that seems to be precisely what the ISU wants! They chose hip-hop!
We decided along with our coaching team that if anyone should just go for it, it should be us. We wanted to create an energetic, crowd-pleasing program that would draw in a different demographic than typical ice dance viewers. But frankly, what person above 50 will know a hip-hop song from 2016? So we talked, and experimented, and talked some more, and came to a few conclusions.
Then it came the time to start our season and see how the program was received. We have had awesome moments with this program. Our goal of reaching younger demographics has definitely been met, and we are getting messages from young people praising our music selections and our “dab” (a famous dance move) in the footwork. We also qualified for the Grand Prix Final despite an increasingly difficult and competitive ice dance field.
Despite these accomplishments, we feel that we have not yet maximized our goals for this program. We have scored lower than our goals, and we have had mixed reviews from the panel. One of the goals of this program was to introduce more modern music into ice dance in a way that evolved from something the judges and older generations could understand. We changed a few little things throughout the season, but we wanted to get as much feedback as possible before assessing which direction to take it. We continued to work on the quality of the short after each competition, and we really tried to give it the best shot possible. It seemed, however, that we would have to rethink the program if we wanted to achieve our goals for the season.
We came home from Trophée de France and we had a meeting with Marie-France. We did not want to back away from the goals of this program. After competing in front of several crowds around the world, we realized that there were a few pieces of music that “worked” no matter where we went. There was a sweet spot in the middle of our program highlighting music that was both old and new enough to be known by everyone. We agreed that we should extend some of these songs in order to eliminate several of the lesser-known songs towards the end of the program. We wanted to skate the beginning of the short dance with more flow and speed in order to accentuate the dancing in the second half of the program. Once we had more ice coverage in the first half, we really tried to pull in the whole audience for the ten seconds of allotted time we have for a stationary dance break. Since this program is all about bringing the audience joy, we really wanted to make sure that the whole audience could have a view of our program. We made sure to turn every direction and not just dance for the 9 judges on the panel.
We feel that our newly improved short dance will better accomplish all of our goals. This is our "passion project" of the season, and we will work until the last moment to make it work. But in the end, this program is about having fun. We are ready to go to Marseille this week and dance like crazy with the goal of putting a smile on everyone’s face.
Please tune in and enjoy!
Madi and Zach find continued success after transformational year
They re-qualify for skating’s elite ISU Grand Prix Final
December 6, 2016 - Webmaster Update
Madi and Zach have arrived in Marseille, France for the ISU Grand Prix Final, which showcases the world’s elite skaters. They qualified for the GPF for the second straight year after medaling in all of their international events so far this season.
To start, Madi and Zach competed in the ISU Challenger Series, winning the gold medal at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in September and winning silver at Finlandia Trophy in October. Then, in the ISU Grand Prix, Madi and Zach won silver at Skate America in late October and again at Trophée de France in November.
Building on a breakthrough 2015-2016 season
Madi and Zach’s success this season builds on their breakthroughs last season, their first under coaches Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, and Romain Hagenauer in Montréal. Under the “D-H-L” coaching trio, Madi and Zach caught the attention of the skating world, improving all the technical aspects of their skating and rejuvenating their presentation and choreography. Their efforts were rewarded with a sixth-place finish at the 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Boston in March.
In particular, Madi and Zach’s performances at Worlds drew lavish praise from television commentators Nicky Slater and Mark Hanretty of Eurosport, and Tracy Wilson and Ben Agosto of NBC. Noting that he “could watch them skate all day,” Slater raved about their “Hallelujah” short dance, saying that “it was an experience to behold, so deep was the relationship they had between themselves and with the music.” Slater continued, observing that their performance was “something special. You could feel it in the air. So much to admire in that: the deftness of touch, the changes of direction, the quality.”
After their “Adagio for Tron” free dance, Slater offered, “I don't know about you, but it touches my soul, the underlying emotional depth that this couple brings to their skating. Something very very special. I love the quality of their technical content - well done!” Hanretty was also effusive after both performances, saying that “it's nice when good things happen to good people” and nothing that “if they continue to keep offering performances like that, there's no doubt that at some point their time will come.” Similarly, Agosto remarked, “I'm still under the spell. That was amazing. Such a beautiful program, it weaves together, it doesn't stop, it's fluid, it's graceful, it had everything, it was beautiful.”
Deeply appreciative of support from fans
Madi and Zach are deeply humbled by all the praise they’ve received. After Worlds, they began work on new programs, while continuing to refine their technique and presentation. This season, they’re focused on rewarding fans for their support, while also living up to the high expectations that they have for themselves.
During the summer, Madi and Zach were honored to participate in Mao Asada’s “THE ICE 2016” tour in Japan. They were incredibly touched by the adoring reception and attention they received from Japanese audiences and fans. They were also mesmerized by the beauty of Japanese cities like Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, and Kitakyushu, and were captivated by the incredible grace and dignity of Japanese culture. In particular, Madi is a huge Totoro fan, and she had a blast seeing him all over Japan! Madi and Zach want to offer a heartfelt どうもありがとうございます to Mao as well as their Japanese hosts and friends. They can’t wait to return to Japan, hopefully soon!
New programs for the 2016-2017 season
This season, ISU short dance guidelines call for a blues rhythm, plus either or both of swing and hip hop. In their short dance, Madi and Zach explore the “evolution of dance,” starting with a sultry, bluesy Nina Simone rendition of “Feeling Good” woven seamlessly into the required midnight blues pattern. Then, they transition to a crowd-pleasing hip hop review. For the ISU Grand Prix Final, Madi and Zach will streamline this section of the dance to focus on MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby.”
For their free dance, Madi and Zach are skating to “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Bootstrap, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Ingrid Michaelson, and “Earned It” by Bootstrap. In forming this medley of love songs, Madi and Zach turned to music that they personally believe in and enjoy. They hope that this personal connection shines through in their skating, where they are portraying a dialogue between two lovers on the ice.
Earlier in the season, Madi and Zach were pleased to have the opportunity to talk to Dave Lease of The Skating Lesson about their new programs and their goals for this year. Here are both of their interviews:
Above all, Madi and Zach wish to thank you – their fans – for your continued support, which inspires them to strive every day for bigger accomplishments. If you’d like to play a direct role in their success this season, they invite you to visit their GoFundMe page.
- The US has become the world power in ice dance (Associated Press via the Washington Post)
- Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue Strike Grand Prix Silver in France (Team USA)
- Hubbell, Donohue aim for second gold of season (IceNetwork)
- Hubbell, Donohue defend title with story of love (IceNetwork)
- Hubbell, Donohue hip hop their way to first place (IceNetwork)
- Hubbell, Donohue a delight on ice (Lake Placid News)
- 'D-H-L' coaching trio deliver ice dance excellence (IceNetwork)
- 10 Best Ice Dance Performances of the 2015-16 Figure Skating Season (Sportsblog)
- Batter up! Hubbell, Donohue tour Fenway Park (IceNetwork)
- Hubbell & Donohue Interview (FD) - 2016 World Championships (IceNetwork)
Previous news updates from Madi & Zach
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