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IMPRESSIONS: INFLUENCES at LeFrak Center, Produced by Brooklyn Academy of Music

IMPRESSIONS: INFLUENCES at LeFrak Center, Produced by Brooklyn Academy of Music
Deirdre Towers/Follow @deirdre.towers on Instagram

By Deirdre Towers/Follow @deirdre.towers on Instagram
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Published on April 8, 2021
Photo: Donna Ward

April 6, 2021
Choreographer/Skaters: Alexandre Hamel, Pascale Jodoin, Samory Ba, Taylor Dilley, Jasmin Boivin
Composer: Jasmin Boivin  // Dramaturge: Ruth Little 
Lighting designer: Lucy Carter // Costume designer: Jenn Pocobene

From the first thrust out on the ice of Prospect Park’s LeFrak Center, Le Patin Libre had me enthralled. The five skaters from Montréal, Canada, are billed as a contemporary ice skating company, but they seem to be a flock of blackbirds. Gliding as one, their arms swinging above their shoulders from side to side, they exude grace and the power of sensual synchronicity. You could practically feel the rush of blood in their thighs as they accelerated, the sink of their shoulders, as they swooped around the rink.

Five skaters hold hands to create a loose circle as one tries to break free
Le Patin Libre's "Influences"; photo by Donna Ward 
With their range of heights and hairstyles, the four young men and one woman are white except for one tall, lanky black man; all are relaxed and hypnotic. Their guileless program transports you to the frozen ponds where they began to skate together in 2005. One can easily imagine the thrill of encountering their spontaneous demonstrations and witnessing the calm and steady hold on their centers and each other’s focus. The composer, Jasmin Boivin, of this hour-long work often paused the music to let the ice sing with just the drag, the spike, and the screech-to-a halt of the skates. One segment explored percussion along with clapping by the company and audience -cued by the sharp arm jabs of the skaters. 
Two skaters stroke across the ice, passing each other
Le Patin Libre's Samory Ba and Alexandre Hamel; photo by Donna Ward 
Mostly, their artistic adherence to the natural beauty of gliding invites us to savor the ebb and tide of momentum. The low lighting aided the meditative feel of their work, making the occasional glint of the blades stab the eye. Perhaps to satisfy expectations, the company sprinkled in a few figure skating tricks, a spin with the head on the ice; toward the close, Pascale Jodoin demonstrated a fast spin with her arms crossing her chest. Mostly the group flowed in patterns, each taking a solo while the rest of the group moved in unison; those solos were less about character and more about how tension between an individual and the group grows with distance, how one could pull the group together or apart. 
A man in a green cardigan shoots off the ice, his body is slanted, his arms and legs extended in relaxed Vs. Two other men stand behind him motionless
Le Patin Libre's Jasmin Boivin, Alexandre Hamel, Taylor Dilley; photo by Donna Ward
David Binder, a Tony Award-winning producer who succeeded Joseph V. Melillo in 2019 as BAM’s Executive Director, introduced the program with palpable relief. Mayor De Blasio also spoke with almost wide-eyed disbelief that this event marked the first live show in Brooklyn in thirteen months and a clear sign that NYC, an arts and cultural capital, was on its way to recovery. Commissioned by Emma Gladstone of London’s Dance Umbrella Festival, Le Patin Libre was a perfect choice to open the season. I admit I cried to see something so wholesome, so peaceful. May it be a good omen!

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