Maisie Sadgrove, a member of the Next Choreography Group from Siobhan Davies Dance, reflects on seeing Le Patin Libre’s show Vertical at Somerset House
Last Thursday evening we made our way to Somerset House to watch a performance of contemporary ice skating. This was the extent of my prior knowledge. The ice rink was a smooth glossy platform lit by purples and blues surrounded by the royal like architecture of Somerset House. The five skaters (four men and one woman) entered their clear canvas in casual clothing, tones of yellow, grey and white. As they stand in stillness the outside air blows their shirts in the wind.
As the piece began it was hard to not notice the marks being made upon the ice by the blades of their shoes. Some were clear and direct, some at an angle churning up the ice like piles of dust. The ice became a conscious element of the piece evolving with the movement being performed upon it. By chance as the wind blew throughout the piece the excess fragments of ice blew swept across the floor which created a beautiful layer to the setting. The skaters, unlike your usual performance on the ground, could weave seamlessly in and out of formations standing like statues. The gliding was effortless and almost hypnotising. At times the expeditious spinning and gravity defying jumps were terrifying as an audience member but they showed great skill and ability throughout the whole piece.
A clear humanity was emitted from the skaters through their focus. They gave a sense of individuality with alternating solos that had differentiating qualities. Despite this they came together harmoniously in times of unison. Their connection between one another allowed them to speed up and slow down without a second glance. The fusion of contemporary dance and skating was structured seamlessly showing no division. Whilst watching the dancers I was curious what came first, the contemporary dance or the ice skating, because both were executed so well.
The connection with the audience really eradicated the fourth wall which usually holds the boundary between front facing audiences and performance. There was personality and playfulness and it was clear the dancers enjoyed the performance just as much as their audience.