Le Patin Libre’s ‘Vertical Influences’ ~ review

Le Patin Libre at Alexandra Palace, part of Dance Umbrella 2014.
Photograph: Alicia Clarke for Dance Umbrella – taken at the London world premiere in October 2014

Forget the glitzy clichés – Le Patin Libre has shattered traditional figure skating’s boundaries, and founded a new genre: welcome to the world of contemporary ice skating.

The Montreal-based company is made up of five ex-figure skaters who have rebelled against the rigid rules of their former discipline and its rampant commercialism (as Alexandre Hamel, founder of Le Patin Libre, explains in my interview with him). This group of mavericks have created their own innovative, liberated skating style that is now delighting audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

In their latest piece, ‘Vertical Influences’, Lucy Carter’s brilliant lighting design, combined with the hazy mist rising from the surface of the ice, creates a mysterious, other-worldly atmosphere from the start.

Photograph: Zoé Anne – taken at the London world premiere in October 2014

The show is performed to beautiful original music composed by Jasmin Boivin, carefully interspersed with silences so that we can enjoy the crisp whoosh of skates cutting the surface at speed, or the gentle tapping of blade tips against the ice.

The tale the dancers have to tell becomes more and more captivating as we are plunged into the drama of a group’s pressure and disputes, but also their cheer and unison. With the five skaters always on the ice, they glide together in impeccable harmony, often merging to become one soaring ensemble. In turn, they also perform solos or duets, each narrating different stories, angry or joyful, their individual personalities shining through.



There are real thrills as the skaters emerge from darkness at the far end of the rink and sail towards the audience and into the light until they are within touching distance. Zipping away at the last possible moment, the skaters whizz past so fast that a cold wind brushes your face in their wake, or you are gently showered by powdered ice thrown up by skaters coming to a sudden, sideways-on halt in front of you.



Choreographically, ‘Vertical’, like ‘Influences’, demonstrates the infinite possibilities of contemporary ice skating. Le Patin Libre’s performance includes a unique mixture of speed, grace, power and stillness, often simultaneously. It is simply jaw-dropping.

If you would like to find out more about Le Patin Libre, click here. To read my interview with the company’s founder, Alexandre Hamel, click here.

You can watch Le Patin Libre’s daring new film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaKYSUrHSfs

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