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Skate Today

Jane and Todd Reach High

Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles

Colorado ice dancers Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles hope to reach new heights this season by winning a medal at U. S. Nationals in senior dance. They’ve finished sixth the last two years so a leap to the podium is not out of the question. Gilles has been on top previously, winning the junior title in 2005 with Trina Pratt.

Gilles was the first in his family to start skating, beginning when he was four. But his twin sisters, Alexe and Piper, followed him into the sport with Piper also competing in ice dance with Zachary Donohue.

Summersett started skating when she was just a toddler. “My Mom was involved in teaching the Basic Skills Program and she put me on the ice with a walker when I was very young,” Summersett recalled. “All of my older sisters skated too.”

“I became interested in dancing with a partner around 2001, as opposed to doing freestyle and dancing solo during my previous skating years,” she continued. “I wanted to try something new. Now I’m obsessed and can’t just skate alone.”

Summersett started dancing with Elliott Pennington and the couple won a bronze medal in junior dance at U. S. Nationals in 2006 before splitting up. After sitting out the 2006-07 season, Summersett paired up with Gilles in April 2007.

“Trina quit in December before Nationals,” Gilles noted. “So I missed the end of that season. My Mom saw on that Jane was looking for a partner so we had a tryout in Colorado Springs. It was my first tryout after Trina left.”

The dancers clicked immediately, winning the original and free dances at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships in 2007, a feat they repeated in 2008. They then placed sixth at the Golden Spin of Zagreb in their first international competition and finished sixth at U. S. Nationals in 2008.

They took the bronze medal at the 2008 Nebelhorn Trophy, then placed seventh at their first ISU Grand Prix, Skate America, in 2008 before repeating their sixth-place finish at U. S. Nationals in 2009.

The couple was slowed this summer when Gilles pulled a back muscle in July. As a result, they only competed in the free dance at the 2009 Lake Placid Dance Competition, winning the silver medal.

“We took a little time after Lake Placid to heal it up,” Gilles said. “It only bothers me on the lifts so we’ve been using lifts we’ve done before but we’ll be changing them later. Lifts are one of our strong points.”

This season, they’ll start out at either the Nebelhorn Trophy or Finlandia, and then do the ISU Grand Prix in Nagano, Japan. “I’m excited because I’ve always wanted to go to Japan.” Summersett said. “I’m going to eat some real sushi.”

“We’re hoping to get a second Grand Prix,” she added, “but you never know.” The dancers hope to medal at Nationals this season and plan to keep competing for several years.

Patti Gottwein-Britton is the couple’s primary coach although they also get help from Christopher Dean, Tom Dickson and Sandy Hess. They normally train for five 45-minute sessions five days a week and two sessions on Saturday. “We do quite a bit off ice,” Gilles added. “Two or three days working out, two days of modern, ballet, stretching class. We’re always busy.”

For the 2009-10 season, Christopher Dean choreographed their original dance using Peruvian panpipe music, “Incantation. “He was actually thinking of using it for Piper and Zach and having a flamenco for us, but we decided to switch,” Gilles said.

Dickson also choreographed the combination compulsory-original dance that the couple used in a test event in Milan this summer and demonstrated to a coaches’ seminar in Lake Placid in August.

“We used two patterns of the Viennese Waltz and sections of other dances,” Summersett. “It had to be a waltz and a tango. We used ‘Dracula’ and the tango from ‘Beetlejuice’.”

“We liked doing the dance,” Gilles continued. “It was fun to create. It’s the best option of the three they’re considering for future Olympics.”

Tom Dickson choreographed their rock and roll free dance to Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” performed by Tina Turner, and “Whole Lotta Love” and “Babe I Gonna Leave You” by Led Zeppelin.

“I’m a big fan of rock in general,” Gilles added. “We all went over to Tom’s house to listen to music for the free.”

“When we heard it, we told Tom that we both enjoyed it and he agreed it would be a good music choice with us,” Summersett said.

For shows, the dancers have been using their Chemical Brothers robotic program, choreographed by Dean.

Both dancers are musically inclined. Summersett played the alto and tenor saxophone and the euphonium while she was in middle school. She enjoys listening to a variety of classic rock including Tom Petty and Cat Stevens.

“I’ve been in several bands,” said Gilles, who plays the guitar and sings. Now I just play with a friend of mine who does drums.” He primarily listens to rock music.

Gilles and Summersett both enjoy the outdoors. “I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,” Summersett said. “So I had to be an outdoors person. I like hiking camping and boating and even went skeet shooting this summer.” Gilles likes to hike, cycle and go off roading in his Land Rover.

“I also love to draw and paint,” Summersett continued. “I love drawing people so I still go to life drawing classes.” She also likes to collect things, including rocks and coins.

Both of the dancers are somewhere between their sophomore and junior years at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, taking courses part-time. “We both took a lot of anthropology courses last year,” Gilles noted. “But that might not be creative enough for us.”

Neither has specific career plans although both teach skating some of the time. Gilles also works at a Carabba’s restaurant near the rink.

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