When Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc announced their retirement from the competitive arena, many in the skating world were taken by surprise.
But that decision was one Cain and LeDuc had been pondering throughout the 2021-2022 season and following the 2022 World Championships both decided it was time to embark on new career paths.
“We stepped away from the competitive skating part after the World Championships, but we had already decided before then. So, while it was probably a surprise to everyone else it was not a surprise to us or our team because everyone already knew,” Cain explained.
“We wanted to give everything to last season because we knew it could potentially be our final one. The Olympics was such a big goal and regaining the national title … we were able to do that so we were content with everything in our career.”
LeDuc subsequently moved from Texas to Chicago to coach, while Cain embarked on a career as a show skater and signed on with Disney on Ice.
“I knew that I still wanted to perform. I still loved skating and I knew I was not ready to step away from it. I wanted to go into the professional side of it,” said Cain. “When this tour presented itself, it seemed like it perfectly lined up at a time in my life when I was ready to step into it, so I just decided to embrace it and take it on. It has been one of the best decisions of my life.
“I honestly had no idea what it would be like, but I have a ton of friends who have toured for years, and they all really loved the experience. It has been a good transition. Definitely the shows have given me a purpose in a lot of ways, which has been great.
“My parents actually toured with Disney for almost 10 years and they are still friends with all of people that they toured with. A lot of them are close family friends that I grew up knowing, so I just kind of went off those. I feel like it has been a very similar experience.”
Cain was first assigned the role of Elsa on a “Frozen” tour that was taking place in the Middle East. She spent six weeks performing in shows in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and then moved on to Abu Dhabi. Following a two-week break, she rejoined the show in Kuwait.
“I came home after that and I was able to do a lot of shows with Timothy as well as do some solos,” said Cain. “That was a lovely experience, and it was great that our tour had breaks that allowed for that.”
Her last assignment in that part of the world was in Cairo, Egypt, from which she only recently returned. “It has been pretty cool to travel to places I have never been before. I feel like they are places many people would never travel to.”
Cain is currently on a two-month break with her next tour destinations being Singapore and Bangkok. From May to August she will perform on the South American leg of the tour that will play out in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina.
When asked about the audience reactions during her Middle East adventure, Cain said “it was incredible. Our audiences were huge, in big arenas — especially in Egypt — and they were so loud, singing along to every word. They are very passionate about Disney.
“Obviously, I am portraying a character, but it was really cool to perform in front of those audiences because they really resonate with the character. It was the first time the tour had gone to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and it was the first time back in Egypt in almost 17 years. It is cool to bring skating to these countries that have not been able to see much of the sport.
“In Cairo, it felt like we had our own little Disney world around the arena, which was a really cool experience. To feel that they really respect what we are putting out there and us really respecting them as fans and spectators, it made the show come together in a really great way. We were breaking ground on a lot of things, which was really cool to be a part of.”
Cain is also enjoying the camaraderie that comes with travelling and performing with other cast members on the tours. “The beautiful thing about it is that it brings together people from all different backgrounds that have experienced skating in a different way, and it brings us all together for one common goal. We are like a family.
“I have experienced so much in my life but this is a completely different experience. I feel I have been welcomed with open arms, which has been so nice. This was all so new for me. Everybody has been really helpful in showing me the way. A lot of the skaters have been with the shows for a while and there are also completely new people that are going through the same things as me. It has been a really great experience. It is like you are travelling the world with your friends so you can’t ask for much more.
“There are so many different avenues and so many different things you can get out of the sport – it does not just have to be the competitive track and you don’t have to wait for your competitive track to be done before you do it. Once you turn 18 you have the possibility to do it and I think it is good to see what is out there before you completely step away from the sport.
“I also think it is so important that if someone still feels the joy or love for the sport to just test it out. Travelling the world and getting to perform in front of so many people is super special. I would say everyone needs to try it.”
On her tour breaks, Cain is keeping busy with her coaching career, working full time with her parents at a rink in Dallas. “That has been a really nice thing to have when I come home. It keeps me busy and in the sport. I have been really fortunate with that,” she said.
Cain will be attending the U.S. Championships next week in San Jose, California, where she will teach a developmental camp and speak on some panels with LeDuc.
Though she has no timeline for when she will ultimately hang up her show skates, Cain plans to become a coach at the end of her skating career. “I was a coach throughout my competitive career, and I would love to coach and travel the world giving seminars — something I am really passionate about,” she said, adding she would like to return to a lot of the places she has been to conduct seminars and coach for an extended period of time, as well as host seminars in other places such as Australia.