Dressed in normal clothes—jumpers, slacks, a slouchy dress—the skaters of Canadian company Le Patin Libre could be mistaken for locals out for an evening at the Murrayfield Ice Rink, as they step out onto the flawless surface in front of us. It doesn’t take long, of course, to realise that they’re anything but ordinary.
Vertical Influences begins slowly, the four men and one woman making long, fluid excursions up and down the ice, as if taking in the full extent of their territory, circling in and out of each others’ space but keeping quite separate from one other. When they finally do make contact, it’s electric.
The choreography itself is like nothing you’ve seen before: the attitude and energy of street dance with all the speed and elegance of a flock of birds, wheeling and darting as they go. There’s virtuosity here too, but the leaps and twists have none of the cheesiness of competitive skating – the company perform these tricks as if they’re no effort at all.
After a pause to warm up in the ice rink’s café, we return to a new bank of seating, set low down on the ice itself. The experience is intense, and all encompassing: as the skaters hurtle towards us, only to pull away at the last second, the sound of blades on ice crunches loud in our ears. But there’s nothing gimmicky about this performance – every movement is imbued with meaning, every interaction with significance. If this choreography could speak, it would tell a thousand stories.