Corinne de Langavant almost literally skated onto Martha’s Vineyard in 1992, directly from a clutch of prestigious dance and figure skating productions in Montreal and teaching jobs at the University of Montreal and McGill. Islanders saw local newspaper photos of Ms. de Langavant with a yard-long hank of dark hair trailing behind her as she performed at our own newly opened ice rink. Her first show here was “The History of Hockey,” with four summer college hockey players and four Vineyard skaters.
Her hair is still long, but now lighter, a color of pale ginger-gray, worn in a braid with stray strands let loose from a pace of frenetic energy. After you’ve talked to Ms. de Langavant for even an hour, her passion for skating and the way ballet prepares you to launch yourself on the ice with ease — “Ballet is hard, skating is easy” — you start to wonder if you should be ice skating daily for your mental health alone, never mind the extra bonus of dynamic and fun exercise.
This coming Saturday, March 18, at the Oak Bluffs library from 1 to 3:30 pm, the lively and entertaining Ms. de Langavant will discourse on the intersection of skating, hockey, and classical ballet. This will be followed by a skating party at our ice arena from 4 to 6 pm.
I know what you’re thinking. I thought it too: The talk will be a lot of fun, but no way am I going anywhere near the ice. But here’s the deal — once you’ve heard about the first 20,000 B.C. skater-hunters and how gliding over the ice is the Feel Good sport, you’ll go.
The Montreal skater references Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawing of the man inside the circle. Da Vinci noted in his journals that ice skating was the closest activity to flying. Ms. de Langavant adds that watching skaters glide and float along the ice “makes us feel good. It’s mirror neurons at work.” The next logical step — skating oneself — provides the same elation tenfold.
The impassioned skater has her own timeline for skating, dancing, and hockey. “People think ice skating grew out of ballet, which was created by Italians in the 15th century, and, as with all Italian art, moved quickly to France,” Ms. de Langavant said. But, she declares intriguingly, skating on ice, specifically on blades whittled out of antlers and bones, allowed prehistoric hunters to slide their kill over ice in time for supper in their home caves. This occurred, anthropologists discovered from relics preserved in ice, as long ago as 20,000 years.
Hockey, according to Ms. de Langavant’s historical continuum, was invented in Windsor, Nova Scotia, in the early 1800s, moving on as a recreational sport in Montreal, until finally a formal hockey game was organized under Queen Victoria. The winning skater was awarded a trophy by Lord Stanley, hence the Stanley Cup.
Ms. de Langavant’s first lesson on the ice will be to teach the beginner how not to fear falling by, well, falling. At the workshop, the skater will demonstrate both hockey and ballet techniques that are easily adapted to moving on ice.
The beginner will focus on first, second, and third ballet positions; pliés and tendus for lower body awareness, falling, getting up, pushing, gliding, balancing, turning and stopping, oh boy!
For those already familiar with sports or figure skating, Ms. de Langavant will cover sculling, skating and stopping backward, forward edges, and crossovers in both directions. Advanced skaters will be indoctrinated in power skating, backward crossovers and edges, basics for jumps and spins.
And don’t forget experts’ work with freestyle, ice dancing, and school figures.
Ms. de Langavant’s next goal is to launch a long-awaited concept of a show on ice, here on the Island, to highlight the history of skating, hockey, and ballet. Once she gets skaters to grok that movements on ice train muscles to perform ballet and vice versa, she’ll have herself a splendid corps. “This is a conclusion I came by honestly, by doing the work for over 40 years,” she said.
Ms. de Langavant will also display her private collection of antique blades dating as far back as the 17th century. Saturday’s workshop will combine physics and stories, music — guitar playing by Micah Forgionne-Meir — pictures, fun, and hands-on practice. Ms. de Langavant recommends wearing comfy clothes, and “Come, no matter how old or young you think you are.”
For more information, or to book a presentation, call Corinne de Langavant at 508-423-9566.