Ice Dancing with The Pros

Posted on October 25, 2018

Part of my study abroad adventure has been experiencing performances by other dancers with a diversity of perspectives and practices. Last weekend, I went to see the Montreal-based modern dance and ice-skating company Le Patin Libre, or “free skate,” perform in central London with my friend Claire Lane.

The show was mind-blowing, to say the least. The venue was in this massive ice rink, set up with elaborate stage lights. When it began, I was instantaneously mesmerized but the fluidity of the ice dancers. They simply glided through the space with a continuity that I always crave in traditional proscenium dance performances. There weren’t any harsh edges to their movement, and the quality was hypnotizing. The performers had similar technical devices that I use in my classes at Trinity Laban and the performance structure applied choreographic principles that I use in my own work. Even though I could recognize the movement, it felt like I was seeing another side of dance.

When it ended, my friend asked me if I wanted to join the post-dance ice party. I’m no ice-skater, but somehow I found myself putting on a pair of ice-skates. When I started approaching the rink, I had flashbacks to my childhood ice-rink. The smell of popcorn, the sound of snow pants and bundled up gloves. It was all coming back to me, but this time there were strobe lights and insanely cool dancers all around me.

Thankfully, my friend was equally as scared when we got on the ice. Holding onto the wall, we pumped each other up, saying things like, “We got this, we’re dancers.” After a while we got the hang of it and were awkwardly ‘gliding’ around without the security of the wall.

We were just beginning to feel confident when one of the dancers from Le Patin Libre came up to us and asked to dance. I laughed, bit my tongue, and said sure. I was dying inside from a mix of fear, deep embarrassment, and pure euphoria the whole time. We attempted to contact improvise on ice, which is basically sharing each other’s body weight to move through space and partner together. I say ‘attempted’ because more often than not, I was falling on my butt. Needless to say, I looked beyond awkward. I so badly wanted to impress this cool and professional ice dancer with my mad skills, but I had none whatsoever. The best part about this whole experience is that he was speaking to me in French the whole time. Do I speak a word of French? Absolutely not.

Heading home on the late bus after saying bye to my friend, I found myself smiling and laughing about the whole evening. I was beyond happy that I had first agreed to go to the show and said yes to ice dancing. While I may have made a fool of myself, I tried something I was scared of and had a blast doing it, a microcosm of the study abroad experience, in general.

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Alta Millar