#1 Vertical Influences

Dance ( Dance ) Assembly at Murrayfield Ice Rink

Vertical Influences is a celebration of free skating, creative dancing on ice with solo parts and collective formations from a fist of five skaters. From company Le Patin Libre of Montréal, Canada.

The five each have their own distinct, individual style. The lady leading the pack at times, the tall sporty one with rhythm, the bowtied dreamer, the jumper, the hooligan in the hockey skates. There is choreography, there is a plan, but the show feels joyously loose and free. The skaters play and dance. Influence is body language here.

The show is in two parts, each providing a unique view on the action on ice. First the audience, the few dozen of us, are seated in the best seats in the house, looking down on the action from the side. In the second half we get to move even closer, with seating ON the partially cloth covered ice.

What a surprise treat it proved to be to see ice skating by talented individuals from touching distance, without a plexiglass between us. Hyperreal experience to see the five rush towards you and in perfect control bank away at a distance of mere meters.

All through the show there are gorgeous long shadows on the ice from bright - brilliant, inspired - lighting from the sides rather than overhead. Colourful, cool moods and the skaters' dramatic faces come right up close. Spectacular silhouette play, with shadows dancing on the cold hard texture of the chipped and sliced ice.

There's a brilliant mathematical beauty in the skaters' precise arcs, circles, fan-outs and fold-ins. Using the point or heel of a skate as a compass is a repeating feature. Straight lines cut through the curves. Skating is all physics: momentum, angular velocity, friction, collision, conservation of energy, balance.

In addition to the visuals, there's rhythmic use of ice and the unique acoustics of the rink, with tapping, clapping, slides, stops, and stabbing kicks. The fitting score is enigmatic low key electronic, probably Canadian tunes. There's an intriguing shattering glass motif nicely working with natural skating sounds.

Despite all this spectacle, the pacing felt slightly off, and I was frequently hoping for something slightly more creative or impressive. Or maybe more in the narrative tradition. The show is nicely summarised by the music: intriguing, and always developing into something, but not really sticking to mind.

Unique smell of stale ice rink air in the cafe. Murrayfield rink, located in the west a good distance from the fringe hubs, hails from decades past. The veteran cabbie that brought me had childhood memories of the place. Nineties designs in old school posters left on the walls. Wrestling and all kinds of shows staged there — a little contemporary ice dance fits in (and on the fringe) no problem.

Big smiles from the performers at the end. Sure, it's part of the skating tradition, but you couldn't help feeling like these people really enjoyed sharing their art. As warm and intimate a setting as (only) an ice rink can be. Hot chocolate a big seller at show interval. Winning idea my bringing a blanket. And wearing four layers of jumpers.

Beautiful, creative ice dance from the Canadians. Go see, and dress even warmer than you think appropriate.