Photos by and Alexe Gilles
Since the release of the 2013 animated film, Disney’s “Frozen” has taken the U.S. by storm. From every piece of merchandise barring the picture of the film’s stars, “Anna” and “Elsa”, to costumes and dolls, even talks about a sequel. In the summer of 2014, Feld Entertainment debuted the Disney on Ice presents “Frozen” tour, which has performed to sell out crowds throughout the country. The tour has shows scheduled through 2016 and will stop in Mexico this summer.
But that isn’t the only show bringing the chill of “Frozen”; Disney on Ice’s “Princesses and Heroes” is also traveling to cities throughout the U.S. , wrapping up its two-hour show with a segment featuring the princess and queen of Arendelle.
Recently, Disney on Ice’s “Princesses and Heroes” traveled to Rochester, N.Y., which at the time looked and felt like some of the scenes out of the hit Disney movie. Yet the arctic air and snow did not stop thousands of young children and their families from seeing their favorite princesses during the tour’s five day visit.
The show features many of the Disney princesses and princes, but it was very obvious who many in attendance were waiting to see. Little “Annas” and “Elsas” eagerly awaited the arrival of “Frozen”, with as much anticipation as the cast, who play these coveted roles. This is especially true of Alexe Gilles, who plays “Elsa.”
“It is absolutely incredible. I don’t know how to describe it, “exclaimed Gilles. “You get out there and they scream and you can’t help, but smile. I’m just so thankful that I have this role and I’m excited to play this character.”
Gilles joined the tour in the summer of 2014. She traveled to Florida where she learned the choreography, along with 2008 Junior Grand Prix Champion Becky Bereswill, who is playing “Elsa” in the “Frozen” tour.
Unlike the “Frozen” tour, which focuses solely on the popular movie, “Princesses and Heroes” showcases many of the other famous Disney royalty.
“It is an amazing show, with nine princesses and one queen,” explains Gilles. “It is just incredible.”
After several weeks of rehearsals with the “Frozen” cast, Gilles performed her first show in Detroit in October, where her twin sister, Piper, was in attendance.
The show has visited various cities throughout the country, which has also allowed Gilles to catch up with some of her friends. Her good friend,, got to see the show in Dallas in November. The tour also made a stop in the New York City area where Gilles spent time with friend, 2002 Olympic Gold Medalist Sarah Hughes.
Those familiar with “Frozen” know that it is the story of two sisters. In the Princesses and Heroes tour, “Anna” is played by Morgan Bell. Bell has competed in three U.S. Championships. Both skaters know what it is like to be a sister. Gilles’ twin sister, Piper, is a two-time Canadian silver medalist in ice dancing with Paul Poirier. In addition to Piper, Gilles also has a younger sister and two brothers. Bell’s younger sister, Mariah, is a competitive skater and finished in sixth at the 2015 U.S. Championships in January.
“Having a sister helps. It helps us react and how we can play off each other better. I think it has been an incredible journey and I wouldn’t want to have done it with anyone else, but Morgan,” said Gilles.
Like her twin, Gilles saw success on competitive ice, before turning to performing professionally. The Colorado Springs native started skating when she was just two years old. In 2000, she began working with Tom Zakrajsek and Becky Calvin. Gilles won the U.S. junior title in 2008 and also won a bronze medal at the 2008 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final. In 2011, she moved to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan to train with Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen. In 2013, following in the steps of her sister, Piper, Gilles decided to compete for Canada. She finished in 13th at the 2013 Canadian Championships. Now Gilles is embracing the performance side to her skating.
“With shows, you can have a little more fun and you are not being judged as much and it is all for little kids,” said Gilles.
“Princesses and Heroes” will wrap up its winter tour in Alberta, Canada at the end of the month and Gilles has enjoyed every moment of it.
“It has been fun to travel to different cities, sleep in different cities, but still have that family aspect that we have here,” said Gilles.
In May, Gilles will make her fifth appearance at Skate for Hope in Bowling Green, Ohio. The annual show raises awareness and funding for cancer research. For more information, go to skateforhope.org.