Founded in 2005, Le Patin Libre started as a small collective who first gave demonstrations of its artistic skating performances on frozen ponds in Quebec. It's first show was in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in early 2006. Since then, they've presented Fringe type skating and performance art pieces that range from an adaptation of "The Pied Piper Of Hamelin" tale transcribed onto the ice to a Christmas story with a violin soundtrack composed by one of the troupe's members to extreme and "tap" skating shows in non-traditional venues not just in Quebec but in Europe as well. They're skating's true nomads, the Vianne Rocher's of the frozen stage. As in the movie Chocolat, "the clever north wind was not satisfied. It spoke to Vianne of towns yet to be visited, friends in need yet to be discovered, battles yet to be fought..." The story of Le Patin Libre is full of new people, places and things and a journey that's really just getting started.
The group consists of five core members: founder Alexandre Hamel, fellow Canadians Taylor Dilley, Pascale Joidon, Jasmin Boivin and France's Samory Ba. "We do everything, from skating to street postering and tour organizing," explained founder Alexandre Hamel. "All our artists except one are ex-figure skaters. Jasmin Boivin is an urban ice dancer, never figure skated."
Le Patin Libre's most recent touring venture is called Skaters Anonymous. The work was originally performed under the working title "The Rule Of 3" in 2012 and January of 2013, but is now being exhibited as a touring production. It was debuted by the group in Montreal in March of 2013 then later the group traveled to Berlin, Germany in July of this year to present their work there. The group has travelled, studied and performed in England and France and the group even traveled to the small French islands of Saint-Pierre-Et-Miquelon to exhibit their non-traditional skating/performance art pieces.
THIS is what we need more of. This is the kind of stuff that makes me beam. This is what we as skating fans NEED to be encouraging and creating. If your skating or your child's skating or your student's skating isn't fulfilling them, encourage them to create their own venue and opportunities like Le Patin Libre. Just because you're 16 and can't land that double lutz or get out of Novice or qualify for Sectionals doesn't mean that you have to stop skating. What it may mean is that there's more to your skating than a 9th place result or a failed silver dance test. It might mean that there's another direction; another dimension so many of us can't seem to conceive. It's not laid out for us or made as accessible as competitive skating. It's a road that you not only have to explore but in many instances create yourself. And all it takes is your love for the sport, some good choreography, good ideas and the drive.
Legendary Japanese author Natsume Sōseki once wrote that "art begins with the expression of the self and ends with the expression of the self". This quote is especially true to skaters like Le Patin Libre's troupe members. They learned to create art by skating within the structured system we all have a love/hate relationship with and ended that chapter by once again rediscovering their selves and a deeper art through this new chapter. I hope to see more and more skaters make their own opportunities going forward. It's not about making money, it's about making art. And all that art on ice TRULY requires is a pair of skates, a frozen stage and an audience. We must not forget that. It's the essence of the magic of skating. The magic of no rules.
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