Mention ice-skating and several things come to mind: glitter, sequins, tinny music and plastic smiles à la Dancing on Ice, or perhaps a giant Disney character making inane attempts at a jump.
Le Patin Libre (The Free Skate) however encompasses none of these. This pioneering quartet from French Canada is out to redefine the traditional concepts polluting figure-skating, moving away from the sparkle and glitz by setting out to create pieces that are culturally accepted as works of art.
The quartet (three male and one female) started out on the frozen ponds of Canada after being banned from ice-rinks for their contemporary take on the traditional style. A group of professional skaters who dedicated 15 years to training and didn’t consequently want to dress up as giant cartoon characters, their pieces play with narrative, character and emotion as well as speed and dynamics in a manner that truly shows the new skating style as a contemporary dance form in its own right.
The Rule of 3, the group’s most recent creation and the first full piece to be performed in the UK, comes to Alexandra Palace and Brixton Ice Rink this January. It explores the twisted psychology of three young men following therapy to rid themselves of an unusual addiction. The piece is described by the group as a ‘heartfelt ode to the beauty of the strange, to the grace of the wounded, and to the victory of the extraordinary over the banal’. After the 40 minute performance, the troop will invite the audience to put on their skates and venture onto the ice themselves, in a continued attempt to make ice-skating accessible to the community.
Alexandre Hamel, artistic director of the group and new Brixton resident, says "I have this dream in my head that one day people will say, ‘Hey, it’s Saturday night, let’s go to the skating show’. We have to convince people that there is interesting artistic work going on at the local ice-rink". Local to you or not, this revolutionary group is certainly worth braving the cold for.
By Tamara Vos