On August 3 and 4, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to see Le Patin Libre, an unusual contemporary ice-skating dance company from Montreal. Their choreography is nothing like what you would see at the Ice Capades nor competitive figure skating, say in the Olympics.
The company’s name, Le Patin Libre, translates from French to English as “The Liberated Skate,” but the term doesn’t quite capture their unique contemporary performance art. The company’s website explains that “the ‘glide’ is the uniqueness of our dance. It is the magic we play with, until it becomes a [light-headed feeling] of vertigo for our own enjoyment and the one of our public.”
An elusive concept — David White, artistic director and executive producer of the Yard, speaks about the “glide” and its place within the company’s work, saying that it is “uninterrupted movement along a frictionless surface, in this case ice. What they’ve done is take that element and dropped the figures that usually define competition skating, and look instead at the ‘connective tissue,’ the in-between, when skaters are usually moving between point A and point B.”
He continues, “The glide is also this idea of an inertial power — you build up an energy that is compressed by the performers moving back and forth across the ice in various forms — and then they release, at which point the energy launches them outward, and they can be as motionless as they want on top of their skates while the power of the release propels them forward. They’ve used the glide as an essential defining structural element within their work as well as the foundation of their philosophy as dancemakers on ice.”
White reminisces about Le Patin Libre’s debut on the Vineyard: “We brought their first piece, “Vertical Influences,” here in 2016, and it just blew the roof off the Ice Arena. All sorts of people came who weren’t necessarily those who would come to dance concerts — families of hockey players, families of figure skaters, and so many of them came up afterward and said some variation on the same theme of that they were so happy to have a third way of ice skating, free from competition.”
This year Le Patin mesmerizes us with its newest gravity-defying show, “Threshold,” an adrenalin-laced experience. Says founder Alexandre Hamel: “We use [the glide’s] rush to fuel our choreographic poetry. Dancers and acrobats have to walk, run, flip, leap, and so on. We, on the other hand, can zoom around without moving a muscle!” In “Threshold,” here in its American premiere, the audience is split-seated at ice-level at opposite ends of the rink, with the fluid glides and intricate patterns coming to and moving from the viewer.
The reviewer Judith Mackrell from the Guardian wrote about “Threshold”: “Accompanied by electronic beats and a lacing of melodic lyricism, they circle around each other at astonishing speeds, and in even more astonishing slow motion. They bait each other, b-boy style, in risky shoulder and toe-spinning moves, they hunker down in hip-hop footwork, or wheel into formations as high and free as flocking birds.”
Hamel is very committed to sharing contemporary ice performance with a general audience, and, in that vein, following the Saturday, August 4, 7 pm, performance there will be a free Public Dance Skating Party with members of the company and a DJ, beginning around 8:30 pm. You are encouraged to bring your own skates, but rentals will be available at the Ice Arena. Likewise, a free public Skating Workshop, open to all ages and levels and led by the company, will take place at the Ice Arena on Thursday, August 2, from 10:30 am to noon.