Out & About: Montreal company brings dance to Dartmouth’s Thompson Arena

By LIZ SAUCHELLI

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-08-2023 4:00 PM

A different kind of dance performance is coming to Dartmouth College next week at a venue that isn’t exactly known for the art form.

Le Patin Libre, a contemporary ice dancing company based in Montreal, will perform the United States premiere of their piece “Murmuration” during four shows at the Thompson Arena. Performances will take place from 7:30 to 8:40 p.m. on Thursday and Friday; and from 2 to 3:10 p.m. and 7:30 to 8:40 p.m. Saturday. Tickets cost $18 for students and youths, and $30 for adults. They can be purchased at hop.dartmouth.edu/events/murmuration. The performances are a collaboration between the Hopkins Center for the Arts and Dartmouth’s athletic department.

“The Hop has hosted dance works in all kinds of adventurous settings from abandoned pools to groves of trees, but as far as we know, this is the first dance on ice event for the Hop,” Michael Bodel, director of external affairs at Dartmouth, wrote in an email. “We’re excited to bring our audiences into new spaces across campus and to present the work of a company that is re-imagining what dance on ice can look like.”

Alexandre Hamel, who founded the group in 2005, said he believes it will be the first time that Le Patin Libre — French for “The Free Skate” — will perform in New Hampshire. They often perform at colleges and universities.

“What’s really cool with these university arts presenters is first they are interested by what we do and they’re always after innovation and new voices in the arts,” Hamel said during a phone interview. “They are more easily able to make a partnership with the athletic department or something like that to have access to the campus ice rink.”

It’s also a win for the Hop: The facility is currently undergoing renovations, and staff have had to work to find other places on campus to hold performances.

“The renovation of the Hop building has presented us with wonderful opportunities to think creatively about programming events in different, creative spaces and to spread the arts everywhere on campus,” Bodel wrote in an email. “It’s been wonderful working with the Athletic Department to present this fascinating project — to learn about the rink as a venue and think about how we can attract the overlapping communities of arts-lovers and athletics fans.”

That’s one of Le Patin Libre’s goals.

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“We often have figure skating fans and hockey fans coming to our shows because they’re curious about this local oddity coming to their rink,” Hamel said. “It opens the rink to the community.”

Hamel is familiar with how both of those worlds — the artistic and the athletic — can be combined to create something different.

“Me and a few friends were competitive figure skaters and it was more or less of a rebellion against the traditional and rules of traditional figure skating,” he said. “We wanted to do something that was expressive and free, and not competitive, and open to new ideas.”

The company started small. Its first performances were at outdoor winter carnivals in Quebec. Over the years it has grown to include 15 members and now tours internationally.

“The show really takes the shape of a dance show,” Hamel said.

That was part of the appeal for the Hop. Program manager Karen Henderson saw Le Patin Libre perform in Montreal and brought them to the attention of the Hop, Bodel said.

“This is a radical departure from the sort of ice-capades or “Disney on Ice” show you are familiar with,” Bodel wrote. “This company is inventing a new rigorous and expressive form of dance that relies on the speed and glide that can only be attained on ice.”

It also offers an opportunity to reinvigorate a relationship between the Hop and the athletic department that dates back to the 1990s when Dartmouth Dance Ensemble directors Pepe and Vicki Dechiazza taught classes to athletes.

“There is a big overlap between kinesiology, sports medicine and dance technique,” Bodel wrote.

Both Bodel and Hamel hope the performances will appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds.

“We make this art accessible to people who might night not normally come to see a contemporary dance performance,” Hamel said. “We’re kind of a bridge between worlds that are often apart.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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