by Anne Calder | Photos by Daphne Backman and Robin Ritoss
“My first name is Shin Lei. The skating community knows me by Lei Lei.” – Shin Lei Case
Shin Lei Case is a solo ice dancer who lives and trains in Dallas, Texas. She recently shared her story with IDC. Besides skating, she loves rock climbing, spending time with friends, volunteering and hanging out with her dog Hershey.
An only child, she was born in Foshan, China in 2002 and adopted by her parents the following year. She is extremely grateful for all they have given her and everything they do like her father’s willingness to learn to skate to be her protector.
“I was very little when I started skating, so my dad actually started as well to prevent me from getting run over during public sessions,” Shin Lei revealed. “He still skates every week and competes in local ISI competitions.”
Her skating journey began shortly after seeing Sasha Cohen’s 2006 Olympic performance on television. The four-year-old was captivated by Cohen’s flexibility, artistry, and ability to float across the ice.
An invitation to a birthday party at a local mall with an ice rink had her all excited about a possible skating party. Sadly it was upstairs overlooking the rink. Afterwards she begged her mother to let her go on the ice.
“My mom caved and signed me up for a free introductory course,” Shin Lei recalled. “We found the smallest pair of skates they had, and I took off running. Since that day, I’ve never looked back.”
The young Texan began with singles. By 2013, she had partnered with Maxim Zharkov and two years later they competed at the 2015 U.S. National Championships in Greensboro, NC.
“It’s my favorite skating memory,” Shin Lei said. “It was our first competitive season together, so we were thrilled to have qualified. The experience of competing at the same venue as the athletes I’ve looked up to since I was little was amazing.”
“I went running over to the main area where Madison Chock and Evan Bates were practicing and was completely star-struck. From seeing all the media teams to riding in the athlete shuttles, it’s definitely something I’ll always remember.”
The following year the team won the Juvenile Dance pewter medal at the 2016 U.S. Nationals in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Although Shin Lei quickly realized she enjoyed the dance aspects of skating more than singles, she continued competing in them up through Novice. In 2017, she switched solely to dance.
After a second partnership ended, she still wanted to do dance. That’s when her Coach, Logan Giulietti-Schmitt, suggested solo dance. She knew little about the discipline, so was a bit reluctant, but decided to give it a try.
“After my first season in solo dance, I was hooked,” Shin Lei said. “I really enjoyed the camaraderie and over all atmosphere. It’s a very tight-knit community, and everyone is so supportive of one another.
“I love the technical aspect of solo dance – being able to focus on my edges and refine them is something I’m really drawn to. When I competed in partnered dance, my focus was less on edge quality and more on figuring out how to skate alongside another person without falling. I don’t have to worry about partnering or getting my blades tangled up with someone else’s. I love the feeling of being free and skating on the ice by myself.”
Shin Lei attended Texas public schools all through her training and in 2020 graduated from James W. Martin High School in Arlington.
When it came time for college, the University of Texas, Arlington was a perfect fit. The campus was only 16 minutes from the rink where her coaches Logan Giulietti-Schmitt and Brooklee Han taught. She studied biology with an emphasis in pre-medicine. In addition, she took on multiple leadership roles in several campus organizations. Shin Lei graduated in 2023.
“During my last semester, I took 18 credit hours – which was the most I had ever taken,” Shin Lei explained. “It was difficult balancing school with skating and my extracurriculars. I remember not getting home until 9 p.m some days and being completely exhausted both mentally and physically. However, looking back, college taught me how to manage my time, stay organized and not stress about the little things in life.”
These past two seasons have come with some major changes in her training routine. Coach Han had moved to New Hampshire in May 2021, but was returning periodically to work with her and some other skaters. At the beginning of the 2022 season, Giulietti-Schmitt left Dallas to coach at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, CO.
“Luckily, when Logan left, my programs were already choreographed,” the dancer pointed out. “Brooklee also graciously agreed to come back to Texas to help me qualify for the 2022 National Solo Dance Final.”
At the event, Shin Lei won the International Solo Pattern Dance bronze medal.
“Since last September, I’ve been training on my own. It’s been a huge adjustment learning to push myself in practice rather than have my coaches be that driving force,” Shin Lei noted. “I was going to campus every day for class and finishing my last year of college, so moving to Colorado or New Hampshire wasn’t an option.”
During this Solo Dance season, Shin Lei and Coach Han did FaceTime lessons. They exchanged LiveBarn videos of weekly practices for feedback. Periodically Han went to Dallas to work with her and other skaters.
The student-athlete also took a few trips to Colorado Springs and New Hampshire during school breaks. She recently started working with Daniil Barantsev locally in Dallas to help with her pattern dances and skating skills, which she credits for being a huge help.
Shin Lei lists blues and cha cha as her favorite rhythm dance music styles. Since she prefers contrasting the two programs, she usually gravitates toward soft, lyrical music for the free dance.
“This season the rhythm dance style is Latin,” Shin Lei explained. “I’m skating to “My Love”, “Dreaming of You” and “No Quiero Saber”. I really like the fast, upbeat, cha cha portions of the Selena-inspired program and find that it complements the rumba portion. For my free dance, I’m skating to “Listen” by Beyoncé.”
“The rhythm dance was choreographed by Coach Giulietti-Schmitt. In February I worked with Randi Strong at the Solo Dance Camp to give the program a “Latin” feel. Coach Han had already choreographed the free dance last September after the 2022 National Solo Dance Final.”
Back in 2020 when the U.S.Solo Dance Series and Final were cancelled due to the Covid pandemic, Shin Lei was looking for something to work on. She decided to test through her International pattern dances. At the time, a local dance judge suggested that she start trial judging.
“I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to give back to the sport that has taught me so many life lessons, and to my home Dallas FSC that has supported me through my entire skating journey, so I started the process of becoming a test judge.
“I was lucky to be able to get my Gold Dance and Singles test appointments locally and not have to travel anywhere. I’m currently working on my dance competition appointment and hope to represent the U.S. at international competitions someday.”
Since the ISU recently voted to include Solo Dance as a discipline for international competition, Shin Lei has a good chance of successfully achieving this goal.
“I’m excited for the opportunities international competition will bring to the community. The discipline has been growing exponentially here in the U.S. and now hopefully worldwide,” she noted. “Solo Dance provides another avenue of competitive skating, and I’m eager to see where it will be 5-10 years from now,”
Shin Lei’s professional goal is to attend medical school and become a physician. After her May graduation, she is taking a couple of gap years to study for the MACT and explore other interests outside of school.
While the ice dancer has been fortunate not to have had any major skating injuries up to this point, some freak accidents have piqued her interest and exposed her to the medical field.
“When I was little, I flipped upside down and landed on the ice face first, so I got to see the inside of an ambulance,” she disclosed. “Then when I was 12, my dance partner ran over my finger, and I ended up in the emergency room. The doctor was super nice and calming, which made the fact that he was about to suture my finger with just a needle and thread, a lot better.
“In my senior year of high school, I started volunteering at a medical clinic, which provides free healthcare to underinsured and uninsured patients. I’ve been able to shadow a variety of different specialties and gain exposure to the clinical side of medicine.
“During college I became involved with the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS). My favorite experience with the club was visiting a cadaver lab. Being able to view the complexities of the human body and hold someone’s heart in the palm of my hand was fascinating.
“My current interests are in sports medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) and anesthesiology.”
Shin Lei stood on the podium at several USFS Solo Dance Series events this season, which qualified her for the 2023 National Solo Dance Final, September 14-17 in Glenview, Illinois. She will compete in Senior Solo Combined and International Solo Pattern Dance.