Thursday, 26 May 2016

Le Patin Libre Glides into Guelph

 We asked Alexandre Hamel, Founder of Le Patin Libre to tell us more about the origins of the company, and how a group of former competitive ice skaters began to make art on ice. His words are evocative, and a wonderful video about the making of the work they're performing in Guelph is at the end of this post. You should definitely scroll all the way through and watch it!

Le Patin Libre performs on Stage A, Friday, June 3, 8 pm, at the University of Guelph's gold ice rink. They also teach an ice skating workshop, suitable for all levels, on Saturday, June 4, 9:30 am.
Tickets available by clicking here or by phoning 519-763-3000.

Photos by Alicia Clarke
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Vertical Influences is a contemporary ice-skating show.

Now, what's contemporary ice-skating? It's the result of a 10-year artistic adventure.

I launched Le Patin Libre in 2006. I was then a retiring figure skater. I competed on the international scene, skated professionally for Disney On Ice and in a few other big traditional figure skating shows. Sparkles and all... In 2006, I was also a Fine Arts student, at Concordia University in Montreal. I was studying film production.

During the 15 years of my intensive training as a figure skater, I always felt I didn't fit into what figure skaters reverently call “Le Monde du Patin,” or “The Skating World.” I always found my training companions very obedient and blindly engulfed in this closed universe of competition, hyper-sexualisation, drama, superficialism and....sparkles, always more sparkles. But, I loved the moves and the challenge so much! I just kept going until university provided me a good excuse to get out of it. Figure skating is like a sect. It's not that easy to get out of, especially after your parents have “invested” $15,000 a year in that weird training, secretly and crazily hoping you'll be an Olympic champion.

At university, I was part of little indie video projects. I loved it! Still infused with the love of skating, I gathered a few skaters I knew to launch a little indie ice-show project. It seemed natural to me. This doesn't exist in figure skating, however. Normally, it's all about big money, big producers, big sport federations, an establishment approving it all, etc.

So, year one of the project included a few short performances on frozen ponds in little towns around Montreal. We performed in winter carnivals. It was simple and naive. Good skaters, funny numbers, a bit of acrobatics, a slightly rock 'n roll attitude and....finally... no sparkles! Not a single one! I called the troupe Le Patin Libre. It means The Free Skate.

The shows were prepared very quickly because we didn't have access to much ice time, between hockey games and traditional figure skating stuff. Doing anything happy and un-conservative is forbidden at public skating sessions (even empty ones), so we could not dance or practice there. We did rehearse outdoors, in the winter, but that's often unreliable and feet freeze in an hour in those horrible hard-leather tight ballet shoes with blades.

However simple and quickly thrown together, our little shows pleased people. The local media talked about “rebel figure skaters,” the troupe grew, and we were quickly invited to France for shows organized by private ice rinks.

In France, we were offered a deal: do a few shows for free in exchange for practice ice time. All of the ice rinks are empty at night and in the morning, when hockey players are at work or at school. In city-run ice rinks, the bureaucracy makes such deals impossible, but in the private ice rinks of France, we just borrowed the keys from the owners and went skating for long hours whenever the ice rink was closed or unused. At night, sometimes! We started to go often, for residences that grew longer and longer. We literally exiled in France, to have access to this ice time.

Finally having time to do more than just throw shows together, we started to ask ourselves deep questions:
·       Why are we doing ice shows?
·       Why do we stick with this thing even though ice rinks are so complicated?
·       Why do we freeze our asses in sad looking, foul-smelling refrigerated garages?

I don't even remember how it came to us but the answer was simple: Glide!

It's what makes hockey more exciting than soccer. It's what makes surfing more sexy than beach volley-ball. It's why people fly to the Rockies to ski, when they could snowshoe in their backyards.

Glide is the possibility to dissociate movement through space from the gestures organically associated to human locomotion: walking, running, jumping, crawling, etc. This means a body can be immobile but move quickly. One of the skating-artists of the troupe calls it “grounded flight.”

Glide is the only thing we have and that dancers, circus artists or comedians don't have.

Glide is what's left when you take out those damned sparkles. And I mean “sparkles” in the large sense: TV shows, podiums, judging systems, syrupy music, themes, commentators, princesses.

Later, I would learn that glide is our specificity. With it, we could reach artistic modernity.

And we understood right away that the choreographic possibilities would be endless and completely new.

As soon as we were conscious of this, our shows started to feel better, richer and more natural. Our years of training as top-level figure skaters finally made sense! Where we felt compelled to add barrel jumping, tap skating and fire breathing (check our YouTube channel), in our first naive years, we started to just glide. Simple, pure and rigorously choreographed glide.

And the rest is just lots of sweat, big financial risks and the lives of 5 skating-artists completely invested in this over the course of a few years.

To make the story short, we developed that stuff, self-produced a show in London after another one of those residences in Europe, had a little box-office success, were noticed by the programmers of a big theatre and of a big dance festival (Sadler's Wells and Dance Umbrella), were offered real residencies and professional support and finally developed Vertical Influences. It got us some awards and accolades, and the show is so fun to do, I would perform it even if I were invisible.

So, that's what we're bringing to Guelph! And by the way, Guelph's Arena is not smelly and not even that cold! It's a really good one, and I'm not only saying this because they agreed to cancel a few hockey games to let this happen. We can't wait!
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Check out this wonderful video about the making of Vertical Influences


Thursday, 19 May 2016

Choreographer Suzanne Miller Muses on THIRST

We asked Montreal choreographer Suzanne Miller to share some thoughts on her piece The Water Project: THIRST which will be performed on Stage B, Saturday, June 4, 8:00 pm. Read on to gain some insight into her fascinating mind - and then, without delay! - get your tickets for this performance. Seating is assigned at the River Run Centre, so you'll want to arrange for the best seats now!
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The Water Project: THIRST
Choreographer's Notes, by Suzanne Miller (May 16, 2016)

Interestingly, the percentage of water contained within our body mirrors the percentage of water in the earths’ body.

Water marks our existence and continues to reveal life itself never fully knowing either beginnings or ends.

photo: Francois Bergeron
On June 4th, I share the stage with dancer/collaborator/perfect dance partner Karsten Kroll, with whom I’ve danced since 2000, and composer/musician/life partner Allan Paivio with whom I’ve worked since 1985.

Performed on a mirrored floor surface and riddled in plastic, THIRST uses the three states of water’s transformation -- SOLID, LIQUID and VAPOUR -- as a resource to direct the choreography, scenography and music composition. The kaleidoscopic effect of the mirrors creates a hybrid body where boundaries between, BONE, BLOOD and BREATH – are mixed.

The mirrors also provide water for an interpretation of “The Dying Swan.” This ends the production - it pays homage to the iconic solo choreographed by Mikhail Folkine (1905), made famous by the legendary Anna Pavlova.

We look forward to returning to Guelph Dance festival and are eager to reunite with our family and extended community.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Partnerships Magnify Festival Offerings

We managed to get Guelph Dance’s Festival Artistic Director, Catrina von Radecki, to sit down for a few minutes so that we could ask her a few questions about how partnerships are making a difference in the Dance Festival’s offerings.

Who are Guelph Dance’s partners are this year during the Festival?
This Festival season, we have expanded our partnerships to include not just our wonderful Fab 5 colleagues (Guelph Jazz Festival, Guelph Film Festival, Hillside Festival, and Eden Mills Writers Festival), but also the 2Rivers Festival, Exhibition Park Neighbourhood Group, Hanlon Creek ParkNeighbourhood Group, and Capacitance.
What are some of the benefits of these partnerships?
The benefits of partnerships cannot be understated! We enrich each other’s programming and assist in promoting each other’s events. The sum is greater than its parts.

The 2Rivers Festival is an annual festival celebrating the beautiful Speed and Eramosa rivers, which meet in the city of Guelph. This year, our Hanlon Creek Park performance (Friday, June 3, 5:30 pm) is included as one of their events, along with a wide variety of activities including nature hikes, heritage walks, opportunities to paddle the rivers, and arts events.
Our partnership with the
Hanlon Creek Neighbourhood Group includes their helping us promote the event to their neighbourhood, and….they’re providing free ice cream during our event! The Exhibition Park Neighbourhood Group’s Creativity Picnic takes place immediately following our Saturday In the Park performance, providing a full and rich afternoon of arts activities for people of all ages. EPNG is also helping to promote our Festival to people in their Neighbourhood.

Our partnership with
Capacitance, curated by Lynette Segal, is a wonderful example of how we have helped to foster an active dance community in Guelph. Capacitance is our Local Initiatives event this season (Sunday, June 5, 2 pm), and is being co-presented by the Guelph Jazz Festival. The performance is multi-disciplinary and improvisational, and offers a more experimental approach in contemporary performance.

Other Fab 5 partnerships during the Festival include Eden Mills Writers’ Festival co-presenting Sara Porter at the In the Studio show (Saturday, June 4, 4 pm); Guelph Jazz Festival co-presenting the Guelph Youth Jazz Ensemble during the In the Park series (Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday); and the Guelph Film Festival co-presenting the screening of ORA, an innovative dance film that will be show during On the Stage B at the River Run Centre (Saturday, June 4, 8 pm).  Our programming is just so much richer with the contributions of our fellow festivals!

What extras can Guelph Dance audience members expect to see due to these partnerships?
·       Live music during the In the Park shows
·       Multi-disciplinary and experimental performance in the Local Initiatives performance
·       An intermingling of dance and storytelling at the In the Studio show
·       Avant-garde films with a focus on dance at Stage B
·       Activities for kids as well as parents during the Creativity Picnic at Exhibition Park

What IS a ‘Creativity Picnic’ anyway?!  
Hosted by the Exhibition Park Neighbourhood Group, the Creativity Picnic offers music, magic, and a wee bit of mayhem from 1-4 pm on Saturday, June 4. It immediately follows the In the Park show. The Children’s Art Factory, Five the Magician, the Making Box, the Art Gallery of Guelph, and Cardboard-ia are among the activities and entertainment that will be available.

Bring a picnic, stay and play for the day on our new playground. J.O.E. coffee will be there with coffee, drinks and treats; and Blue Water Creamery is bringing its delicious ice cream.

We have local and lovely talent such as: The Children’s Art Factory, Five the Magician, The Making Box, and the Art Gallery of Guelph's ‘Inflatable Art Gallery’. Plus we'll have activities from the Guelph Civic Museum, Cardboard-ia, Kids Make Guelph, and more!

Stay up to date on the Creativity Picnic by following EPNG’s Facebook page.

Anything else you'd like to say about GD's partnerships?
Partnerships are fundamental to what we do and are found in all aspects of the Guelph Dance Festival and outreach activities. Partnerships enable us to branch out to new audiences, afford larger scale and a greater variety of work, and access more resources to reach new audiences and to provide artists with great opportunities.  

As the Guelph Dance community grows we are excited to continue to develop and deepen partnerships so that we can be sure we are listening and responding to our community’s needs, that we are intricately immersed in the community we live in, and holding hands with the amazing people that make Guelph such an incredible place to live. 

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Our audience members are our most important partners. Without you, there would be no one to witness the dance. Check out the full festival schedule now!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Sara Porter In the Studio: An Intimate Tour de Force

Toronto-based Sara Porter takes the In the Studio stage at Guelph Youth Studios on Saturday, June 4 at 4 pm.  Here, she tells us more about "Sara does a Solo," her intimate piece which is part memoir, part stand-up comedy, part dance performance; and in whole, a beautiful and bold statement.
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We all need reassurance.

: that things will be as we expect them to be : that we have a handle on what’s happening in our lives and in the world : that, despite all life’s uncertainties, that we know something, at least something that we can rely on...

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about live performance. 

Last night, I ran the newest version of Sara does a Solo, under the masterful technical direction of James Kendal, in front of a small invited group. James is up for anything and I love that. (He doesn’t seem to mind if I call a cue from onstage and change the order of things, just spontaneously, just for fun.) But last night I thought: That’s it! It’s finished! After working on several different versions of Sara does a Solo over the past months – for various shows in New York and Toronto – I think I have finally arrived at the finished version of the piece. And I felt the satisfaction of having completed something. Ended, finished, done. This is the version I’m taking to Montreal (Studio 303) next week, and to the San Francisco International Arts Festival the following week. (May 20-22). I will be all set for Guelph in June. Now, I know what I’m doing!

Well, now, hang on a moment…

Sara does a Solo
is a piece that is in continual flux. I premiered it – the earliest version – in June 2014 at my studio in Toronto. And, frankly, I was terrified. I didn’t even know if it was a piece. But from there, I’ve shown it – in various iterations – at the Intergalactic Arts Collective Studio in Toronto, at the charming Evergreen Theatre in Nova Scotia, as part of Performance Mix Festival in New York City, at Dancemakers Theatre in the Distillery District as part of Older & Reckless in Toronto, and at Douglas Dunn’s Studio Salon on Broadway in NYC. Each time, a slightly different piece.

We laugh in rehearsal – my rehearsal assistants/creative facilitators Katherine Duncanson, Gerry Trentham and me – saying the title suggests I’m doing “a” solo – but doesn’t actually commit to any “particular” solo. That’s just to ease our stress of this continual change. The piece is continually in flux. And that is partly what it is about….

Sara does a Solo
is very much about the present tense, about what’s going on in the moment, both in the theatre as I perform, and in my life. As one audience member said recently, “It feels like you’re just making it up, right there in front of us.” Well, in fact, in some ways, I am.

There is a strong structure and clearly determined form and text, and much of it is, in fact, very carefully rehearsed. But, as a solo, I can follow – and respond to – what happens in the moment. That’s the fun and the danger of it. It’s much like life. There’s a frame, but there’s always space for exploration, invention, trying something a different way. For play.

That is, I think, what live performance is all about: living a small piece of your life in front of other people. So we get to ponder together what it’s about, what we might share, what is familiar and what is different amongst us. How we might cope.

My life is full of parenting, practicing, rehearsing, making things up, questioning who I am, whether I’m doing the right things, whether I’m too serious, or not serious enough. Whether I believe in what I’m doing – or if others believe in it. Who am I, anyway, and how did I get here? Sometimes it feels like I’m performing all the time. Other times, I’m not even certain if I know who I am. Everything moves.

So, it’s reassuring to know – at least – that I’ll be at the Guelph Dance Festival on June 4th with a piece called Sara does a Solo. That is confirmed. I’m really looking forward to it. But nobody – not even I – knows exactly what it will be. But don’t worry: something will happen. And it will be live. And so will you.
 Sara Porter
May 2, 2016
photos: Tamara Romanchuk (top)
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Here's a sneak preview of Sara's piece:

A limited number of tickets are available to Sara's performance in Guelph. Click here to purchase your tickets online, or call the River Run Centre at 519-763-3000 to purchase your tickets by phone. This show is sure to sell out!