The first American Contemporary Skating Festival

The first American Contemporary Skating Festival

If you didn’t come this year, book for next year.

This is an absolute must.


A couple of weeks ago, on 9th and 10th of June, the first American Contemporary Skating Festival was held in Boston, MA. Sponsored by the American Ice Theater, Kate McSwain, artistic director of AIT Boston organized something which was distinctly different to the average skating reunion. Feedback.

The inspiration to gather people around the idea of contemporary skating was born at Cyberglace, Monéteau, in France (kind of in the middle of nowhere, I must say) under the guiding influence of Le Patin Libre, Alexandre Ricitelli and Thierry Voegeli. Their first edition of -5°C sur scène, which translates to “-5°c on stage” (or “23°f on stage” for the Americans out there) was organized for the very first time in 2012. The genius idea travelled all the way to Berlin, where a festival of contemporary skating was also organized last year. So it was last year, as they were working in Reykjavik, that Kate McSwain and Garrett Kling decided to head off to Berlin for some contemporary pleasures and here they conceived the idea of this American contemporary skating festival. It was around a table (probably in front of a drink or even a few drinks) that Kate claimed she would do it.

Next year, get ready Boston: The first American Contemporary Skating Festival.

And so she did.

Kate McSwain gathered more than 40 people on and off the ice – 42 in fact, if my memory serves me well. Most of them choreographers and professional skaters from all over the US and Europe, notably with the presence of Elisa Siegmund, one of the pioneers of contemporary skating in Europe, organisator of the contemporary festival in Berlin and an unquestionable Ice Queen of contemporary skating.

Throughout the weekend, workshops were held on and off ice by presenters and we could noticeably recognize the inspiration coming from models of the world of dance, movements, and art. From Laban’s eight efforts to conceptual Art, going through theater exercises and edge classes. From the number of ways of executing a cross-roll through time to how to bounce your way with an awesome hip-hop choreo, the weekend was full of inspiration. And it felt good. I must say it was a one of a kind pleasure to be present among all these creative people, professional skaters, choreographers, coaches, and skaters. Kate’s headline: “Create, compose, communicate, collaborate and connect” perfectly summarized the whole weekend, and it was with this special, open, creative, almost tangible energy, that the weekend progressed.

One point I must underline is, contrary to what could be very typical of the skating-community, is that there were no particular highlights, just people sharing. It was a true experience that all members could feel involved in and be a real part of a growing community. Goes without saying, and awfully clichée, but I wish the weekend would have lasted longer. The Showcase felt the same, from the Ice Theatre teams “Broadway on Ice” and “Crystal Blades”, the wonderful AIT ensemble present for the event, to probably some of the most arty-athletic-kicked performances I’ve seen these past years. They flowed beautifully contemporarily into each other.

Definitively not just a must-see, this is a must-be.

For the press release/blog entry regarding the Festival written by Garrett Kling, click here.

Experiment on Ice

Experiment on Ice

By Madelene van Beuzekom

When people ask me ‘What is contemporary skating‘? I say; That’s a very good, but a very complicated question that I don’t have a simple answer for (yet).

Maybe this question is exactly what currently drives the people and skaters involved in this worldwide community. This important question is probably the main reason what people involved are trying to research and are so passionate about.

In my opinion the figure skating community in general is always trying to find a balance between the artistic and technical side of the sport figure skating. For that matter, I think contemporary skaters have stepped out of the conventional thinking ‘within’ the barriers of the figure skating sport. Why do we give these labels ‘artistic’ and ‘technical’ and limit ourself within the rules the ISU imposes upon us? Why is there nothing in between, above, under or outside of these labels and boxes?

One thing I know for sure is that from a historical perspective people would go skating because of three reasons:

1. It’s cold and so there is ice to use (still a factor in many plaes),

2. The right material allowed people to move from A to B But, most importantly;

3. The will of people to have a feeling of freedom on the ice.

This last aspect has evolved itself into various forms of sport on ice and continues to evolve today. I like to think that this community of contemporary skating is actually innovating, as in every sport, dance or ‘other’ discipline for that matter. Innovation never stops and helps to evolve, but always starts with a question. Often that question is the simplest one, why? 

When I try to explain what Contemporary Skating is, I find myself referring to parallels with dance, because this way people understand ‘other’ labels outside of sport. I usually explain (though super generalizing in the process) that dance has gone through a massive evolution during the last century, starting with classical ballet and evolving into various dance disciplines like hip-hop and modern dance today. Lets say contemporary skating is the ‘modern dance’ of figure skating, but that still doesn’t cover it fully. I also believe that skating is more than using this form of body movement to play games or perform sports. In my opinion, moving the body by using an ice-surface can be seen as a form of self-expression, a form of storytelling and eventually a form of Art.

Lets take a spin as an example, everybody knows what a spin or ‘pirouette’ is. Within the rules of the figure skating sport you must execute a certain number of rotations, balance everything out, spin as fast as you can and complete it on a clean edge to receive a pre-defined amount of points. When the element doesn’t turn out as perfect as the skater wants, the skater usually ‘makes the best out of it’, finishes the element and moves on to the next one. In my opinion this skater is in complete denial of what he/she is doing. Why doesn’t this spin tell a story of anger, sadness or passion and why must the skater consider the imperfection imperfect? Within contemporary skating it is not about the result of the spin, but about the movement itself, the process that takes place during this spin and the meaning of the movements we are making on the ice.  

To support the research and evolution of contemporary skating I decided to organize ‘Experiment on Ice’.

Experiment on Ice has been set up to add value to this movement of ‘contemporary skating’ and thus focused on considering skating and moving on the Ice as a form of Art.

To accomplish this, I decided to invite artists from various backgrounds, like dance, music, sound & light, as well as the visual arts, to take part in this experiment and share knowledge, inspiration, and ideas, about art in collaboration with skaters.

Experiment on Ice is a non-profit project focused on the question: What will happen when figure skaters and artists like dancers, musicians, sound or light artists, collaborate on an ice surface? The essence of this experiment is the multidisciplinary process that will inspire skaters and artist to think differently, create, discover and innovate. A combination never seen before.

A group of artist and skaters will be formed and together they undergo this true adventure. The experiment takes place on ice, but also off the ice. Several professional artistic figure skaters from around the world have already signed up to be part of this experiment. The artists involved are mainly connected to the Media Art Festival in Leeuwarden, which also takes place in December. So the group is not only multidisciplinary, but also international.

The experimental process takes place on 14th and 15th of December at the Elfstedenhal Ice rink in Leeuwarden. Consequently, the new discoveries (artworks) may be presented to the audience on the 16th of December. The audience will be diverse of age, interest and taste. This way we are able to measure what the feedback of the audience will be on the discoveries (artworks) that are being presented.

I am super excited that skaters and several artists from all over the world have decided to be part of this experiment and I can’t wait for more ‘festivals’ or other gatherings concerning contemporary skating to be organized globally!  I am super eager for this community of Contemporary Skating to grow and hope ever more people will become ‘infected’ with the contemporary skating ‘virus’ to keep evolving and growing.

Madelene van Beuzekom



Figure skating is evolving.

Contemporary Ice Skating is still new, growing and it can become bigger, greater, broader.

We needed a platform to share, to create, to be. So here we are.

This is a blog dedicated to sharing the most cutting edge ideas and news from the world of Contemporary Ice Skating.