The (Elusive) Art of Figure Skating

Synthesising the worlds of figure skating, dance and music

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Photo: Malcolm Johnson

The (Elusive) Art of Figure Skating is a holistic theatre-based production featuring Gary Beacom on rollerblades alongside Jesse Bannister, musicians, dancers and storyteller, with use of film projection.

A synthesis of the worlds of figure skating, dance and music, the work appeals to diverse audiences, both those familiar with ice-skating and those new to the artform. It aims to inspire the next generation of ice skaters and to re-engage with the creativity underpinning figure skating, an artform which has been all but lost as the sport has become increasingly dominated by a narrow set of technical rules, at the expense of its aesthetic tradition.

Developed by Balbir Singh in collaboration with Gary Beacom and BSDC composer-in-residence Jesse Bannister, The (Elusive) Art of Figure Skating brings the kind of artistic sensibility one expects in dance back into the world of figure skating. As Gary explains: “I listen to the rhythm. And I stay on the rhythm the whole time. I listen to the melodies. I try to hit the highlights. I feel the character of the music. Figure skaters generally can benefit greatly by emulating the musical interpretation that prevails in off-ice dance forms.”

This is exactly the sort of cross-artform exploration that excites Balbir Singh:

“For me, The (Elusive) Art of Figure Skating makes a connection between two apparently different worlds that are – in reality – surprisingly similar. In the world of figure skating Gary Beacom is the ‘quintessential independent’. So this is a piece about his relationship with his creativity, his technical skill and artistry, a unique mind exploring what it means to be human on ice with such extraordinary talent as recognised the world over, pushing against the conformity of the ice skating world. Yet it is also a universal story of the artist as a lone figure battling, warrior-like (whether on the ice or the stage) to express his creativity, in the face of what the wider world expects of him.”

Developing the music for the piece, Jesse Bannister has found the experience of ‘composing on ice’ stimulating: “Our environment can be a major factor defining how we move and sound. As a space the ice is cold yet welcoming, the sound feels the space and it is given in echoed tones. Movements are enhanced by the bleakness of the ice, and the speed of the skater’s blade is a new dynamic to compose for.”

More about The (Elusive) Art of Figure Skating

“I would drive a million miles to watch him skate. This guy is an orchestra leader with his feet.”

Cynthia Ullmark, Canadian figure skating coach, on Gary Beacom

Photo: Malcom Johnson

BSDC: The work