Meet Ella Ales
From first-time ice dance competitor to Junior Worlds alternate, Ella Ales has had a whirlwind season. After skating singles in her hometown of LA, she moved across the country to Michigan to start a new journey, and boy, is it paying off. With partner Daniel Tsarik, she won silver at Midwestern Sectionals, 7th at US Junior Nationals, and 5th out of 20 at the Bavarian Open - not bad for her first season ice dancing! Whether she's on the ice or off, Ella is hardworking, kind, and so down-to-earth. I am so happy for this sweet girl, and I can't wait to cheer her on as she chases her dreams! Read on to learn more about this rising star of the dance world.
Birthday: October 30th, 2001 (17 years old)
Born: Los Angeles, California, USA
Hometown: Glendale, California, USA
Currently: Novi, Michigan, USA
Country Represented: USA
Skating Club: Los Angeles FSC
Discipline: Ice Dance
Partner: Daniel Tsarik
Training location: Novi Ice Arena in Novi, Michigan, USA
Coach: Igor Shpilband
Boots: Edea Flamenco
Blades: MK Dance
Q: Growing up in Glendale, California, how did you get involved with figure skating and when did you know that you wanted it to be more than just a hobby?
A: When I was six years old, I was doing ballet almost every day in LA, and one of my friends from ballet started taking Learn-to-Skate classes at a rink close to where I lived. She invited me to join, and I immediately knew I loved skating! When I was about eight, I knew that in order to excel in either ballet or skating, I could only pursue one. So, I made the choice to become a figure skater. I’ve trusted this decision ever since, and I’ve never looked back.
Q: You started out skating singles and trained with Rafael Arutyunyan in Lakewood, California, before switching to ice dance and moving to Novi, Michigan, to train with Igor Shpilband - what made you decide to change disciplines, and how did you end up choosing Novi and Igor?
A: I think that while I loved singles, my favorite part about skating was always the performance and choreography aspect of the sport. Rafael basically told me that to maximize my potential, I should switch to ice dance. Rafael and Igor are very close, so Raf was actually the one who set me up with the opportunity to train with Igor in Novi.
Little Ella was so adorable! (Photos courtesy Fabian Lewkowicz, others)
Q: This year is actually your first season competing with Daniel Tsarik, as well as your first season competing in ice dance in general. How long after you moved to Novi did you team up with Daniel, and what was the process of searching for a partner like?
A: Daniel and I started skating together about nine months after I moved to Michigan. Since I was so new to ice dance, Igor and I decided that it was best for me to work on my technique and get a better understanding of ice dance before I found a partner. I had tryouts with a few other boys and (obviously) made the decision to skate with Daniel!
Q: Since you guys started competing right away at the junior level, did you have to learn and test all the pattern dances prior to competing, and how come you started in junior instead of juvenile or novice?
A: When I still lived in California, I broke my ankle twice and had five stress fractures in my foot in the span of about three years. During this time, I couldn’t jump. So I started taking ice dance lessons with Renée Roca, and I was able to test some of my pattern dances then. Once I moved to Michigan and before I started my partner search, I finished testing the rest of my dances. Even though Daniel and I were both so new to the world of ice dance, there weren't any questions about the fact that we would compete at the junior level. We both improve quickly on the ice, and our age also helped make the decision easy for us.
E-L-L-A (Photos courtesy Daphne Backman, ice-dance.com)
Q: You would never know that it's your first season ever competing in ice dance, you both are SO good individually and more importantly, together! What do you attribute your success this season to, and what have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced as a first-time ice dance competitor?
A: Thank you. :) Daniel and I knew from the beginning that since we don’t have as much experience as some other teams, we would have to work extra hard to be competitive in our level. However, I see this “challenge” as a good thing. Since we started with such a high level coach, we have a clean slate to develop upon.
Q: What has been your favorite competitive experience this year and why?
A: I think that my favorite competitive experience this year was at Bavarian Open. I don’t think anything will beat hearing “representing the United States of America...” followed by our names. It’s a great honor to get to represent your country! I’ve never had the opportunity to travel internationally before, so that was a really cool bonus, too! Another amazing opportunity was when we competed at US Nationals this year in Detroit. Skating for a home crowd was simply wonderful, and Nationals is an experience like no other!
Ella exploring Obserstdorf, Germany, during the Bavarian Open with Daniel,
mom Wendy, and coach Adrienne Lenda
Q: Not only did you and Daniel have a great debut season, but you also got selected for Team USA, which means you can be sent on international assignments, Junior Grand Prixs, etc. - and you get that cool team jacket! Very few teams are invited onto Team USA, so that is a big deal. How did you react when you found out?
A: Getting to represent Team USA is an incredible honor that I have looked forward to since I started my skating journey. So, when we got the news, Daniel and I were thrilled! At first, I thought it was a dream (I’d had that dream a few times before!). As a reward for our hard work, Daniel, my mom, and I went to Dairy Queen, and I got a vanilla cone!
Q: You're also a junior in high school and have the hard task of balancing a full schedule of schoolwork with a full schedule of skating. How do you do it, and what advice do you have for others struggling to keep up with being both a skater and a student?
A: Honestly, it’s difficult to balance skating with school, since both are kind of like full-time jobs. It’s left me unable to socialize a lot of the time, but I still have a great friend group at the rink and at home in LA. My advice to someone who struggles with this is to try and plan a bit of time every day to get some schoolwork done. For me, I do about two hours every weekday and spend almost my entire weekend studying. While it’s a lot of work, I find that scheduling this time aside makes studying less stressful.
Ella + Delilah = <3
Q: What are your hobbies and interests outside of skating, and what is your favorite way to spend a day off?
A: I love playing with my two dogs, cooking, and hanging out with my friends in my free time. When I don’t have any schoolwork, my favorite way to spend a day off is with my friends, possibly at the mall or watching movies at home.
Q: It's hard to believe this season is almost over, it feels like it just started! What are your goals for next season, and is turning senior/going to the Olympics on your radar at all?
A: I think that next season our goals are to show that we have improved, are competitive, and hopefully represent the US successfully at whatever internationals we get sent on. I am age eligible to compete internationally for two more years in junior, so we plan on using those two years to make a name for ourselves and hopefully set ourselves up for a successful senior career. I think that everyone dreams of going to the Olympics! Right now, we have to complete a lot of smaller, yet still important, goals before that.
Representing the United States of America...
What ice dancers do you look up to?
Thing you miss the most about California?
My friends and family! (But also, the shopping)
Random fun fact about yourself?
I have really hyper-extended knees!
Favorite Disney movie?
Beauty and the Beast
Best gift you've ever received?
My puppy, Delilah
Awwwww my heart just melted
What's the secret to perfect twizzles?
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Secret option C! I’m the most productive midday haha
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Becoming a member of Team USA
Quote to live by?
“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” - Vince Lombardi
This gal's got a bright future!
Keep Up With Ella
Connect with Ella to follow her ice dance journey - oh and for a daily dose of cuteness, follow Ella's puppy Delilah on Instagram!
Check out our interview with Ella's partner Daniel Tsarik here.
All other photos courtesy Ella Ales