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


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