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Review: Vertical Influences (Assembly at Murrayfield Ice Rink, Fringe)

An ice dance that takes place on the outskirts of the city

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Patin Libre
© Alicia Clarke

One of the pleasures of the Edinburgh Fringe, for me, is that it sends you off on a voyage of discovery around the city. And once you move away from the big, bustling, multi-company sets, you find yourself in all kinds of unexpected places

Among the most unexpected is the Murrayfield Ice Rink, an evocative and wonderful setting just in itself, with its slightly tatty grandeur and its wooden tip up seats. It is just the best place to see Le Patin Libre, a contemporary skating company from Montreal who skate in a way that looks how you imagine skating should feel.

This programme, which they have been touring for many years now (it's been to Edinburgh before), comes in two halves. In the first, Influences, you watch from the stands; for the second, Vertical, you sit on the ice and the skaters come towards you, low-lit and spectacular, stopping inches from your face, their blades cutting into the ice and sending flakes into your face.

Conventional wisdom, and previous reviews, state that this is the most spectacular part of the programme. And it is. It is utterly thrilling and very beautiful. But I loved the first half too, when separation and height means that you can see the way the five-strong company (four men and one woman) glide across the space, full of freedom and ease.

They do the stuff you expect skaters to do like the jumps and turns, but they do it in ways that are unexpected, so a rising leap becomes a challenge, a sweep past a moment of flirtation or follow-me encouragement. They also do things you wouldn't imagine, like tap dancing on ice, or cutting sharp patterns with their toes, or bending their knees deep like ballet dancers and soaring round in circles.

It is both athletic and artistic, casting its own spell. Wrap up warm (sitting on the ice, even with carpet, is chilly) and then sit back and just be thrilled by the majesty, the command and the sheer confidence of the whole thing.

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