Whenever we think of Jean-Marc Généreux, three things immediately come to mind: energy, dancing, and more dancing. But when he’s not busy shaking a leg, the feather-footed judge of So You Think You Can Dance Canada is also a diehard Canadiens fan, always finding the time in his jam-packed schedule to follow his team from any of the four corners of the globe. So when the canadiens.com crew caught up with the cavorting choreographer, it was only natural that he didn’t dance around our tough questions, giving us instead the inside scoop on his love for all things Habs.
When did you first become a Habs fan?
By 1986, I was already hooked. Habs fans have really seen it all. I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, but there were a couple of difficult seasons over the years leading up to what I like to call ‘the renaissance’. Pierre Boivin really did a great job of grabbing the bull by the horns and bringing fans back to the Bell Centre. The Forum ghosts have kind of been buried, I think. I remember I was at the Forum once back in the day and we had bought our tickets last-minute, so we ended up standing somewhere between the Reds and the Blues, leaning on each other to stay upright. It was crazy! It’s been a long time.
When we think of Jean-Marc Généreux, we think dancing, not hockey. Have you ever laced up the skates?
Yes! Although unfortunately my hockey career ended at the Bantam level once I met my girlfriend France Rousseau – who I’ve been married to now for 26 years – at age 9. When I turned 10 I started dancing and could no longer do both since dance school and hockey practice were both reserved for weekends. I still played with my friends outdoors for fun, but could no longer be part of an organized team because of the amount of time I was dedicating to dancing.
Are dancing and hockey on the same playing field in terms of being sports?
Obviously it varies with dancing, since it can be anything from a simple social activity at a club, to totally a sport just like figure skating on the international stage. In fact, I’ve actually trained for years alongside the likes of Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, Victor Kraatz and Shae-Lynn Bourne, as well as Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrick Lauzon. I did the choreography for Moir and Virtue’s routines in Sochi and had a blast, even if I didn’t end up making the trip to Russia because I was tied up with a shoot in France. Sports have always been a big part of my life via dancing. The dancing techniques I teach are very similar to the motor concepts of any sport, really, so I’ve always had both an artistic side and an athletic side – you know, two sides – kind of like Mini Wheats.
How often do you catch a game live at the Bell Centre?
Whenever I can! Being at the Bell Centre is the Holy Grail for any Habs fan! Good on RDS and TVA Sports for continuing to raise the bar in terms of coverage. With a big screen at home, you can really feel as if you’re there at the game. But it still doesn’t compare to actually being there. The smell of the ice, the energy… you’re sitting next to a 400-pound guy and you don’t even care. Even as a small guy, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.
Have there been any especially memorable games for you over the years?
Yes, let me tell you about the one I almost saw! I was at the Bell Centre with my son and I let doubt get the better of me in a game against the Rangers. It went a bit like this: 1-0 New York. 2-0. 3-0. 4-0. 5-0. So I told Jean-Françis, “Come on, let’s go. We might as well beat the traffic.“ We weren’t even out of the building yet before it was 5-1. Still I thought, “5-1, there’s no chance.“ Then we get to the car and it’s 5-2. We’re approaching the bridge and it’s 5-3. We’re crossing the bridge and it’s 5-4. We were freaking out! By the time we got home, the Habs had won 6-5 and we were looking at each other thinking, “We could have been there. We were there!“ I guess you could call it the one that got away.
Another fun one was Lars Eller’s four-goal outing. That game was electric. I remember telling myself that night, “Wow, that guy’s got talent.“ We saw it last season, too, when things started getting tough for him and he was able to bounce back. And even the year before that, when he came back from a concussion better than ever just in time for the playoffs.
Another memorable one was Carey’s 48-save performance against Boston during the 2014 playoffs. I’ll never forget that one.
Have you ever had a hockey player among your dance students?
No, but mostly because I’m never here in Quebec. I need to work on being around more, but it would be really cool to teach a hockey player some basic moves. There was a college quarterback a couple of years ago who had won two NCAA championships but had finished his schooling. He needed to take at least one course in order to stick around and ended up picking a dance class to improve his speed and mobility. Cross training, as it were. That’s what I’d like to be doing one day, getting top athletes out of their comfort zones to help them achieve new heights. The longer you stay in your comfort zone, the scarier the unknown becomes. But learning new things arms you with new weapons to tackle the unknown. I think it would be really neat to have a couple of sessions with a handful of Habs players. Plus, it would probably make for a hilarious episode of 24CH. “Wait, Coach Therrien, we’re doing what?“ “Dancing, and I’m in too!“ You’d see that it wouldn’t take long for me to convince them. They would love it!
From what you’ve seen, which Habs player has the right moves to be the next Ren McCormack / Danny Zuko?
That’s easy! P.K. Subban, for sure. P.K. “The Great” would be his stage name. It’s rare to see natural talent like that, just like with Guy Lafleur and some of the other Habs greats, so I’m almost certain he has dancing in his blood. It would also be funny to see other guys like Plekanec dance, even if I had to teach him in Czech. Price too, just because of how unbelievably calm he is at all times. I imagine he’d miss a beat or two if I tried making him dance a jive, but put him in suit and bowtie and he’d still look good doing it!
As a dance judge, how would you rate Marc Bergevin’s jig from the 2014 Playoffs?
I think that was the first time I saw a GM show a touch of his human side publicly. I remember thinking to myself, “Finally, we’ve got a real fan in our ranks!“ He and I must have more than a little in common because I actually did that exact same dance at that very same moment. I guess it’s Bergevin who’s actually the best dancer on the team, but P.K.’s still a close second. There was no stopping that dance. It was bred out of pure joy. It was refreshing to see a GM not hide his feelings and I hope to see even more new moves from Marc this year.
Interview conducted by Hugo Fontaine. Translated by Steven Nechay.
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