Ashlie Slatter & Atl Ongay-Perez: Building on their Junior Debut

Ashlie Slatter & Atl Ongay-Perez: Building on their Junior Debut

Despite the 2022-23 season being their junior debut, Ashlie Slatter and Atl Ongay-Perez are no stranger to competing. Their skating journeys started at the ages of 2 and 7, respectively, at Streatham Ice Rink in South London, where they were training solo dance under four-time World Champion Diane Towler-Green, and her daughters Pippa (seven-time Nationals medalist) and Candice (ISU Technical Specialist). 

In 2016, Diane suggested that the two, now 6 & 8, should skate around the rink together. “We’ve never looked back,” Pippa said. “They’ve flourished every time they’ve got on the ice and honestly they are the best of friends. It’s never been such a pleasure to see a couple progress like they have.”

© Atl Ongay-Perez | Instagram

Pretty quickly after partnering, the team were competing in novice events in Europe and started appearing on Dancing on Ice – being part of the group numbers with contestants and pro dancers, and even performing with Torvill and Dean. 

During the start of the pandemicwhich would have aligned with their final novice season – they missed out on international competitions and even training. With lockdown restrictions in force, they trained off ice and were able to take some dance classes online. When restrictions were starting to lift, but ice rinks were still not open for use, they used Off Ice Skates to train in car parks.

Ongay-Perez said “We didn’t have any ice time because at the time we were still novices and because we weren’t going to any Championship or Grand Prix events, we didn’t get any. So that was really difficult, obviously mentally and physically to get back into it. We were extremely lucky to be invited to skate on Dancing on Ice in December 2021, that was the first time we got to properly skate.”

Reflecting back on last season, the duo said they didn’t start it with many expectations but only wanted to do their best. Their hope was at least to get one Junior Grand Prix, Slatter said “When we got two, that was such amazing news to hear.” Ongay-Perez added, “[Even] Junior Worlds was pretty much out of the question when we started.”

Their placements at the events were 8th out of 14, and 13th out of 20 respectively.

© Ashlie Slatter | Instagram

For their ‘Tango’ rhythm dance, they skated to El Capitalismo Foraneo by Gotan project with a Flamenco style to Malaguena by Roni Benise. The music for their free dance, Heart Of A King from the The Man in the Iron Mask soundtrack, was suggested by Diane. 

“Ashlie & I are pretty big [Marina] Anissina & [Gwendal] Peizerat fans, so the idea of it was exciting at first,” Ongay-Perez says. “There were a few discussions from the whole coaching team that maybe the music was too big, or it’s a bit grandiose for our ages, but after they saw us messing around with it – We kinda just agreed that it was made for us.”

Junior Worlds concluded the season for the duo, where they placed 18th out of 30 teams. Their goal heading into the event was to skate their best and to enjoy themselves. Qualifying for the free dance wasn’t on their radar, but finding out they did, Slatter admitted: “There was tears.”

After they had skated their free dance, Ongay-Perez spoke in the mixed zone “This is a really new experience for us. We came into the event a bit more nervous than how we usually are but I feel like we made ourselves proud.”

We want to do a lot better now. Now, we’ve got our benchmark, now it’s just building on that.

With Sheffield also hosting MK John Wilson Trophy last season, the federation invited the team to perform in the gala. “We didn’t have any news that we were gonna do it until the night before so on Saturday night we frantically packed to go up on [Sunday] morning.” 

They watched the women’s free skate and ice dance free event and were able to meet a lot of skaters they like.”It was really cool though, meeting all the skaters, just how chill they were. It was really fun to do.”

Their stand out performances came from Mai Mihara, who they described as “incredible”, and Marjorie Lajoie/Zachary Lagha. “The top 3 [in ice dance] were really solid but Marjorie and Zak were – I think – really strong.”

We’re coming into this season wanting to do something completely different. A program that’s mature but for our ages but not a warhorse. A fun, upbeat program.

For the 2023-24 season, ice dancers must theme their rhythm dance around the “Music and Feeling of the Eighties”, which excited Slatter. “I quite like it. There’s a lot of really good 80s music out there.” Ongay-Perez countered, “I thought it’d be an absolute cheesefest when I first heard it! I was a bit concerned at first but seeing how it [all] fell, I’m happy with the choices we’ve got and I think we can really show what we’re about.”

Their music selections are: It’s Tricky by Run-D.M.C and Walk this Way by Run-D.M.C. ft. Aerosmith, and for the Free Dance: 5-10-15 Hours, St. James Infirmary, and Great Balls of Fire.

Slatter explains, “[Candice] suggested Walk This Way] and then [Pippa] found It’s Tricky. I found – on Spotify –  the title [5 -10 -15 Hours]. It looked cool so I just clicked on it and then everyone really liked it. Pippa found St James’ Infirmary and we all fell in love with Great Balls Of Fire.”

Atl, Pippa, and Ashlie

A change this year in the rhythm dance includes a section of the pattern – rocker foxtrot – being done by the opposite partner. Both welcome the challenge and swap saying, “It’s definitely a lot harder than the normal way because you get so adjusted to it, but the opposite way challenges you. I think it makes us better skaters, and I’m really interested to see how other couples are doing it.”

Their outlook on the season is to do better than the last, and they agree: “We want to get personal bests but as for medals or placements, we really just don’t know at this point. We don’t want to go in with too many goals in case it doesn’t happen. Of course we have what we would love to achieve. We can only work our hardest and whatever the other couples do is out of our control.”

Their season will begin at the Qualifier competition in Sheffield at the end of August, before heading to their Junior Grand Prix events in Austria and Hungary.

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