Vertical review at Somerset House, London – ‘brave and brilliant’
Watching Le Patin Libre is like dreaming about flying – it is a liberating, exhilarating, breathtaking experience. This quintet of former professional figure skaters have freed themselves from the shackles of sequins and judged technical perfection to create a new kind of ice dance.
There is a real sense of playing with movement and experimenting with kinaesthesia, executing feats of weight and balance, gliding in arabesque or deep plié and combining this with upper body twists and flowing release movements.
Here there are no score cards. The dancers luxuriate in being free. Like birds they swoop, or soar with arms outstretched in arcs around the rink, with their everyday clothes (there’s not a rhinestone in sight) rippling in the cold air.
The once polished ice becomes sliced and hacked. The sound of skates scraping, spinning, and crunching, adds to a multi-sensory performance experience (we are outside, in the freezing air surrounded by the tremendous Renaissance architecture of Somerset House), and is incorporated into a percussive section as the group bang their blades in a tap dance rhythm, advancing diagonally across the rink.
The choreography is surreal at times: blank faces advance en masse to menacing music, like a scene from a horror film; they appear in front of you quicker than you think possible. At others it is playful, funny, quirky to the point of bizarre. The performers are sporty in a sense, with the strong, swinging arms of speed skaters, but it is their artistry that makes Vertical what it is: outstandingly brave and really rather brilliant.