Vertical Influences presents a pair of contemporary dance pieces set on ice. The first piece, Influences, places the audience in a typical configuration, in the side seats above the ice rink. We watch the width of the rink where five dancers/skaters explore notions of groups and loneliness. There are soft and striking passages, though the composition stays firmly inside of what I would anticipate in an ice skating show. We see double axels, spins, sharp cuts and patterns, and several sequences of movement around the ice in a pack. There is something quite ordinary about this first half that without its counterpart would be enjoyable and forgettable, but it sets the stage perfectly for the main event.
After our retreat back into the ice rink café for a 20-minute break, where we sip on hot chocolate and tea, eat crisps and candy, we return to the rink, only this time we are led onto the ice. We sit at the end, peering into the shadowy depth of the rink in front of us. This half, called Vertical, is what elevates the evening to something joyous and haunting that will not easily leave my memory. The skaters dive into the notion of glide – which allows them to remain still while moving. Their capacity to generate speed and drift, gliding sometimes at significant speeds without visible bodily movement, builds a series of images, only achievable in this medium, that cut sharply into my visual memory. The skaters glide directly at the audience, stopping only at the last moment, almost leaping at us from the distance. They explore eerily shape-shifting vignettes of glide-inspired choreography that evolve into a striking composition that I hope is the beginning of a much larger body of work not only by Le Patin Libre, but other companies who may follow. Days later these vignettes continue to replay in my mind. Even after viewing dozens of shows these movements hold a sharp staying as they bend physics and reorder our senses. I still see them emerging from the distance. I feel my breath drawing in with excitement, my eyes blurring momentarily and clearing up again, and the lights cut leaving only the echo of shaved ice.