Senft and Gislason Pair Up for 2003
Canadian ice dancer Lauren Senft and her new partner, Leif Gislason, are hoping to make Canada’s world team in their first season together. The couple got off to a great start this season, finishing fourth at the Mexico Cup and third at the SBC Cup in Japan.
Last season, Senft competed with Andrew Hallam, finishing fourth in junior dance at the 2003 Canadian Nationals. Gislason, who skated with Lauren Flynn, finished seventh in seniors at Canadians. But both couples split after the season and Gislason moved to Barrie, Ontario to skate with Senft.
The dancers have a special bond with the judging community. Her mother is renowned Canadian ice dance judge, Jean Senft, who is getting used to the role of skating mother when her daughter competes. “I’m fortunate to have a mom who knows ice dancing and can give me feedback,” Lauren noted. “She’s always very supportive and I feel like we share a special bond because of skating.”
“I started skating when I was three years old,” Senft stated. “My two brothers tried it but they didn’t like it, but I liked skating and started taking lessons. I did lots of sports in school – volleyball, soccer, basketball, and track. I competed in the high jump in track. But I quit after ninth grade to concentrate on skating. I skated freestyle as far as pre-novice at sectionals, but I was more of a test skater. My mom wouldn’t let me try pairs.” Senft started ice dancing when she was ten and had four partners before she began skating with Gislason.
Gislason got into figure skating by accident. “I started hockey when I was two,” he said, “and at the age of seven I signed up for what I thought to be power skating lessons. When I arrived in all of my hockey equipment the lady said, ‘I’m sorry Leif this is figure skating,’ so naturally I didn’t really want to do it, but for some reason I did, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
The dancers now train for 3-4 hours six days a week at the Mariposa Skating Club, where they are coached by David Islam. They spend about an hour a day in off ice training, which includes cardio, gym, and weight training on different days. In the summer, they take expanded ballet classes, something Senft has been doing since she was a child. “I took regular ballet classes until grade eight,” she said, “mainly to help with skating, but I did dance in a benefit performance in Vancouver once.”
Among the things she enjoys most about skating, said Senft, “is making up the programs and the energy involved in getting ready to compete.” Kelly Johnson choreographed this year’s original dance while Nikolai Morozov did the free dance. This season they will be using a swing and a boogie woogie for their original dance and a modern version of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” for the free dance. “Kelly picks out music that she thinks we might like, then we make the final decision,” Senft stated.
Gislason said he likes to skate to “something powerful that still gives us the opportunity to make the program appear effortless.” Senft said, “I like happy and light music. It’s harder to do serious music.” Off ice, Gislason listens to whatever’s playing, while Senft listens to everything except heavy metal.
Senft enjoys hanging out with friends and going to movies. Moulin Rouge is one of her favorites. She also takes a lot of photos of friends and makes collages. She keeps all her stuffed animals, which she stores in her room. “I seriously feel honored when audience members feel so strongly about a performance that they care enough to honor the program by throwing things on the ice,” Gislason said. “This may come as a surprise, but anything they throw I am grateful for.” Gislason focuses on golf, hockey and cars in his off time. He prefers comedies to romances in his movie choices and reads mainly Golf Digest and automotive magazines.
On holidays, Senft likes to go home to Vancouver and go to the beach to get a tan. Senft most enjoyed visiting Italy with her family and would like to see Australia and Greece. Gislason most enjoyed trips to Norway and Japan. He said, “I don’t necessarily like airplanes and bus rides, but I do love destinations.
Senft is a junior at Country Day High School and gets mostly As and Bs in her courses. Spanish and English are her best subjects. “I plan to continue my studies at university and take at least one course each term while I’m skating,” she said. “I’d like to be a criminal psychologist or a lawyer. I’m curious as to why criminals do things. Gislason has been accepted at York University and will be entering the Bachelors of Administrative Studies program. He plans to study business and law at the university to become a sports agent.