Hailing from North East England, Lorna Brown learned to skate at Whitley Bay Ice Rink, and went on to become a British and World Professional Champion. As a coach and choreographer, she has gone on to guide many others to the heights of success in her unique art form.
Brown’s work always has a rich and layered quality. She’s choreographed for innovative skaters like three-time Canadian Champion Emanuel Sandhu and toured with John Curry’s skating company, but what really stands out about Lorna Brown is her passion for skating and refreshingly honest approach to the sport/art.
John and I would talk about our dream of having an ice ballet company when we were very young. We were both winning competitions together, but then I turned pro, and John went out to the USA and eventually won Europeans, Olympics and Worlds on the trot. That enabled him to do what he really wanted – to dance on the ice in theatres and do things his way. He was hugely inspired by Vaslav Nijinsky as I was with Isadora Duncan. He was a perfectionist, very dedicated in everything he did for his work. His shows were incredible. We had people like Diana Ross, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova attending. All of these amazing people were in the audiences, and THEY were amazed that John was bringing ballet to the ice.
One memory from John’s shows that will always stand out is skating “Tango Tango” with him. Jojo wasn’t there at that show. I wore a different costume than her, and I was very different to Jojo. We were each other’s understudies.
It is easy to be average. You really have to work hard to achieve originality and to be unique. Creative people use who they are and what they have experienced to inspire themselves to create new ideas. These people are individuals who are comfortable with themselves but who also realize their imperfections and thrive on achieving excellence. They continually search for new ideas by attending the ballet, shows, art galleries and anything that will inspire them in life to develop themselves. It is those who dare to be different who are remembered, and who leave an everlasting impression.
There was a high calibre of skaters to work with, and a number of strong ensemble pieces developing for the show, but I needed a skater who was used to my way of making work. It is very different from most dance choreographers and a massive contrast to ice choreographers where music is king and dictates everything. My approach is responsive, instinctive, and organic. The work I make requires fast thinking and an openness to take risks and work out of one’s comfort zone. I value improvisation within a structure, demand a theatrical performer quality, and in this case, asked dancers to be open to trying Voice on the Ice.
Balbir on working with Gary:
‘I knew Gary from two of my previous projects, Peacock Lake and The Boy with the Rollerblades. He seemed the perfect choice to bring balance to the programme, excelling in the set skating numbers while also engaging with the dancers with confidence. I knew Gary would be able to push my thinking creatively and help with the through-line narrative and gaps in the piece, while bringing a firm understanding of the creative process. This, for me, is collaboration at its best. Being radio mic’d and speaking on ice was something he had not done before, and I was keen for him to have some sense of communication with the audience.’