In advance of their upcoming first Challenger event, Great Britain’s ice dance power duo Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson sat down with us for an interview to talk about last year’s fabulous free dance and how they feel going into the new season, as well as their individual interests and hobbies. The team garnered a lot of attention from fans as well as many personal bests last season with their 70’s themed free dance.
Read about that and more in our interview with them here!
Lilah and Lewis currently train in Montreal, Quebec at the Ice Dance Academy of Montreal.
You had a breakthrough season last year, with many personal bests achieved. Do you feel any pressure to live up to higher expectations than previous seasons? Do you feel this experience last season is going to change how you go into this new season?
Lilah and Lewis: We really felt last year was special and are very proud of our season but know that we have so much to work on and areas for improvement so are treating it more as a stepping stone or starting point and want to continue to improve and evolve. We gained some incredible experience, were guided so well by our coaches and really are grateful for the opportunities and excited about what lies ahead.
Skating fans really loved your Free Dance last season, even affectionately nicknaming you “The Disco Brits”. Did you expect such an enthusiastic reception when you were creating the program? How did you end up settling on the concept?
Lilah and Lewis: We did not expect such an enthusiastic reception for our Free Dance last season, but were really excited and thankful. We set out to try something new and challenging and fun and it was well received, which is sometimes just good luck and timing. Either way, we felt the choreography, by the fabulous Romain Haguenauer, made it so much fun to perform. We were actually really sad after our final performance of this program at Worlds in Saitama.
Can you tell us a bit about your plans for your Free Dance this upcoming season as well?
Lilah and Lewis: This season we wanted to continue to focus on pushing ourselves and trying new things and improving. We have always wanted to skate to this music and feel it is the right program to follow Disco. It is even more difficult and is challenging us to grow as skaters and as a team.
Lilah, you’ve mentioned that you’re an avid fan of musicals. Do you have any favorites that you’d recommend to fans? Did you have fun doing research for this upcoming season’s Rhythm Dance?
Lilah: I absolutely love musicals and having grown up in London, have seen many on the West End. I have loved them all and recently enjoyed seeing Hamilton which was such a exceptional production. I have been quoted as saying that High School Musical is a secret fantasy RD selection for me, but sadly, Lewis is not in agreement.
Speaking of the Rhythm Dance, what is it like having shifting restrictions on what type of music you can use for your Rhythm Dance, and how do you go about finding music to fit the requirements?
Lilah and Lewis: It was really fun and exciting to try to find music that was from a musical AND fit the rhythm restrictions. There aren’t too many songs that are fast enough for the Finnstep, which is a very quick compulsory dance. Not only do we love our RD music this year, but we get to listen to so many fantastic songs that are being used by our training mates this season. The judges are sure to have a lot of fun this year watching the Broadway interpretations from around the world.
You both started your skating career in singles. Is there anything about singles skating and/or competing that you miss? Do you still practice jumps every now and then?
Lilah: I did start skating in singles but always preferred dance. I managed to land up to a double lutz at one point but I hated falling and I was never a fan of jumps. It was always the musical interpretation component of my programs that I enjoyed. From a very young age, I loved the competition dresses and makeup and travelling to competitions and meeting new people and seeing new places. I also loved all of my coaches at Queens in London, where I learned how to skate.
Lewis: I loved the freedom that singles skating allowed. I could change steps or choreography at will, sometimes even in competition if needed.
Lewis, you also started skating at the age of 11 years old, which is later than is common for most competitive skaters. Were there any challenges you experienced because you started late? Do you have any advice for skaters starting late in the game?
Lewis: I did start skating late, after I saw Dancing On Ice and really thought it looked fun. I missed out on the competitions and experiences of competing at the lower levels, but because I was older, I remember everything about my first steps on the ice and the progress from there and I think I advanced more quickly because I was more mature and focused.
Training in Montreal in 2016, and Gadbois is still your main training base. How have you been liking Montreal? Any local recommendations? Have you picked up any French within the past few years?
Lilah: I absolutely love Montreal (except for the weather in the winter). The training environment is so positive and inspirational, and outside the rink, Montreal has such a rich restaurant scene, and I make it a point to discover and try new restaurants and coffee shops. I have a very long list of recommendations, so please just get in touch if you are coming to Montreal and want my suggestions. Montreal also has beautiful architecture, easy access to nature and a cultural feel that reminds me of Europe. I speak French as I studied it for my A Levels in the UK.
Lewis: I also love Montreal. It is a small big city in that everything is quite accessible yet there is so much on offer. I coach skating and teach spinning so have other outlets and I enjoy exploring the city with friends on the weekend. I even got to enjoy some of my hometown culture at the Highland Games in Montreal this summer. I don’t speak French but most people speak English which is helpful.
Who are your favorite currently competing skaters and teams to watch perform? Any favorite programs from skaters, singles or teams?
Lilah: In singles, I always loved watching Sasha Cohen and Stephane Lambiel. In dance, I have admired, among others, the programs of the greats, from Torvill and Dean to Scott and Tessa and Gaby and Guillaume. In particular, I loved Scott and Tessa’s free dance in 2010 and Gaby and Guillaume’s Moonlight Sonata free dance.
Lewis: I love Daisuke Takahashi’s skate to Blues for Klook at the 2012 World Championships.
Lilah, you mentioned in your ISU bio that you love to ski. What is your favorite place to go skiing, and how did you get into it?
Lilah: I actually learned to ski when I was 2 years old. Both of my parents are Canadian and we spent most winter holidays in my mom’s hometown, Fernie, BC. The skiing there is exceptional and I have grown up exploring the trails and enjoying the deep, fluffy powder. Since becoming a competitive skater, I don’t ski just to be safe, but I miss it a lot.
Lewis, you put down art as one of your hobbies. What is your favorite medium to work with? Can you elaborate a bit on your artistic process and what you enjoy about art?
Lewis: I studied art in school and if I hadn’t pursued competitive skating, was in the process of applying to art school. I love basic drawing and sketching as it really shows talent and is the base for almost all artists. I have done some life drawing here in Montreal and use art as a creative outlet whenever I have time. I also enjoy coming up with design ideas for our skating costumes each year.
Lilah, we’re aware that you study psychology and communications at McGill, how do you like your program? Is it challenging balancing schoolwork with competing? Are your professors understanding?
Lilah: I am really enjoying my studies at McGill. It is such a vibrant and diverse university and I have enjoyed my classes thus far. It is hard to balance schoolwork with competing. My professors have been understanding and help wherever possible but at the end of the day, I have to make up missed lectures and cover and learn the material on my own while travelling to competitions. It took some time to figure out this balancing act, but I am getting better at it and really am happy to have the intellectual outlet.
What is your favorite psychology course that you have taken so far? What interests you about the subject?
Lilah: I really enjoyed Social Psychology because I liked learning about the applications to everyday life and the professor was amazing. This semester I am excited about the Psychology of Personality course. In general, I am interested in understanding human behavior and human connection and also the study of positive psychology.
Lilah, you have your own podcast called “The Lilah Jo Show,” where you’ve interviewed many prominent influencers. Which one has been your favorite to interview, and who would you like to interview given the chance to interview anyone you liked?
Lilah: Wow. This is such a fun question. I have really enjoyed all of my guests and tried to explore with them their paths to excellence. In my first season, I loved my first interview with Natalie McLennan as her story was inspiring and it was such an organic interview. This season I am interviewing skaters. It has been a lot of fun for me to learn about these incredible individuals off the ice and I know the listeners are going to find it equally enjoyable. My list of people I would love to interview is so long but in general, with everyone I have met, each story is unique and beautiful and inspiring, so it is really wonderful experience for me too.
Can you tell us a bit about what the production of the podcast is like? Do you handle the editing and posting of the episodes, configuring the website, and the like on your own?
When I decided to do the podcast, I had a very tiny budget to spend on learning the technical side, and found a person in London that spent an afternoon with me on the nuts and bolts of the process. I didn’t even know where to start, so that was really helpful. Once I knew how to set it up and record and edit and post, the rest was researching and then interviewing the guests. I do handle all aspects of the podcast myself and am continually learning as I go along.
If you could let the figure skating fan community know one thing about you, individually and as a team, what would it be?
Lilah: I actually love to recommend restaurants and coffee shops for ANY place that I have ever been. I really can find hidden gems and love to share these tips.
Lewis: I would like the skating community to know that I really want everyone to find the fun in skating.
You can follow Lilah and Lewis on Instagram here.