Ice Network

Gilles thriving since transitioning to show skating

Former U.S. junior champion building second career with 'Disney on Ice'
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Through her gig with Disney on Ice, Alexe Gilles has gotten to see some of great sites of the world -- like the famous Stonehenge monument in England. -courtesy of Alexe Gilles

Alexe Gilles is no longer on the competitive circuit, but that doesn't mean the 25-year-old has abandoned her lifelong passion for the ice.

After a career that spanned more than a decade, and included a U.S. junior title, a bronze medal at the 2008 Junior Grand Prix Final and two seasons spent on the Grand Prix circuit, Gilles turned to show skating, tackling the iconic role of Elsa in Disney on Ice's interpretation of the film Frozen.

Gilles moved between tours this past year, spending time on one that was solely devoted to an ice adaptation of Frozen and another focused on classic Disney princesses, which included a segment for Elsa.

"I've been able to continue skating and traveling and enjoy it a little bit more, not having that pressure of competing," said Gilles, who performed in Japan, Great Britain and the United States during the year. "We get all kinds of people coming to the shows. Obviously, you see tons of kids, including ones dressed up like a favorite Disney character. It really does keep the Disney magic alive."

Although she left competitive skating years ago, she still challenges herself in her performances.

"I still do double axels and triple toe loops," she said. "It keeps me in shape."

Before taking on the role, Gilles had special Disney training to get the nuances of playing Elsa. Noted choreographers Cindy Stuart and Patty Vincent helped her refine the portrayal.

"You still interpret it your own way, but it helped inform me," Gilles said.

When she's not wrapped up in performing, Gilles and her cast mates like to go exploring. In the last three years, she's been to many popular travel destinations in Europe while also paying visits to Dubai, Qatar, South America and various parts of the U.S. While in Japan, despite having a packed show schedule, she climbed Mount Fuji, visited Hiroshima and went to Tokyo Disney.

Gilles recently enjoyed an extended break, and she used part of that time to pay a visit to twin sister Piper, who trains in Toronto. The two took a trip to Michigan to visit their grandmother, but upon returning to Canada, the focus was solely on sibling bonding.

"We trained in separate cities, so it's normal for us to be [apart], but it's so nice when we get to enjoy some time together," Alexe, 25, said. "We talk a lot and FaceTime. We stay in touch as much as we can."

Alexe said she watches Piper compete online and cheers her on, especially as she and partner Paul Poirier gear up for a push toward the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. Alexe said she will try to attend the Canadian championships in Vancouver as well as the Olympics, should Piper qualify for the latter.

Looking ahead, Alexe envisions touring for another year or two before transitioning to smaller shows. Completing her degree and testing the coaching waters are also important to her.

"I've been all over the world and have been very fortunate that I have been able to do that," Gilles said. "Eventually, I want to spend more time with family and friends and figure the rest of life out."