Disney favorites like Cinderella, Belle, Ariel, Tinkerbell and, of course, the Arendelle sisters, Elsa and Anna, will glide along the ice at Talking Stick Resort Arena April 13 to April 16 as part of Disney on Ice Presents Dream Big.
Disney officials and cast members hope that little princesses and princes will be inspired to be strong, fearless and kind. One of the stars is Alexe Gilles, who portrays Queen Elsa from Frozen. She began ice skating when she was only 2 years old. Gilles, now 25, is one of the leading performers in this highly anticipated production, which is on tour in cities across the United States.
Talent at an early age
Growing up in a large family with four siblings in Rockford, Illinois, Gilles and her twin sister immediately took to skating.
“My mom signed up my siblings and I for ice skating lessons because my oldest brother skated,” Gilles says. “She said it was an activity that helped us get the wiggles out.”
For years, Gilles continued to skate, eventually moving from recreational lessons to competition. When she was 9, her family moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, so she and her siblings could train at the prestigious Bradmoor Skating Club.
“Colorado Springs has a lot of resources, good coaches and choreographers,” Gilles says.
She began competing nationally and internationally, and was awarded the 2008 U.S. National Junior Champion. She was also a Junior Grand Prix Final Medalist, four-time Senior Grand Prix competitor and U.S. and Canadian Senior National Competitor.
Gilles graduated from Cheyenne Mountain High School in 2010 and attended Pikes Peak Community College.
In 2014, Gilles’ choreographer, who also worked for Disney on Ice, came to the rink to watch her practice. Unlike a traditional audition, Gilles was privately observed for six weeks and eventually asked to join Disney on Ice and portray Queen Elsa from Frozen.
“It was fate,” Gilles said. “I knew the role would be powerful and I was ecstatic to portray a character who has so many people looking up to her.”
During her first tour, Disney On Ice Presents Princesses and Heroes, she traveled internationally, visiting Europe, Asia, South America and the United Arab Emirates.
“It’s incredible to combine my love of ice skating and traveling,” Gilles said. “I am able to inspire others and learn about different cultures, which is an opportunity not many people get.
Now on her third tour, Gilles is thankful for the close relationships she has developed with the nearly 100 cast members and crew. She considers her Frozen sister, Anna, a real sister.
“We all get along so well,” she said. “Because there is so much travel, it does add a bit of pressure but we all try out best to make it a great environment.”
Gilles takes her role as Queen Elsa seriously and is convinced that Frozen was made for ice skating. The audience motivates her when she performs during the second act and finale.
“When I see all the kids and their moms singing along to the songs, I’m in awe,” she said.
She realizes the performance could be the only opportunity for some of the children in the audience to see Disney characters.
“It’s a big deal for us,” she said. “It’s hard to put into words what that feels like.”
Disney on Ice Presents Dream Big, Talking Stick Resort Arena, 201 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix, talkingstickresortarena.com, disneyonice.com, various times Thursday, April 13, to Sunday, April 16, starts at $11.