Thank you to everyone who stayed up late for our Skate the Book event on March 24, 2017!
It was wonderful to see so many people out for an evening of words and movement. As you’ll see in the video below, I read a poem (“Learning to Read and Write”) and invited Douglas Webster to speak about the similarities between skating and writing (edges, paragraphs, brackets, scribes, etc.). We heard a quick artist’s talk by Elin Schran about how she choreographed a book of poems as a skating program. Both Douglas and Elin were so generous with their time – they flew in from Boston the night before and never showed signs of jet lag! Douglas, who choreographed for Disney on Ice for ten years and does tons of work for tv and touring shows, and Elin, who skated with Ice Capades and runs Frozen Frog Productions, made all of this look easy.
We snacked and chatted and then, when the public session was cleared, we went downstairs in the Hillcrest Community Centre and we all got our skates on.
I was amazed how split the crowd was – 50% skaters, 50% writers! Some of the skaters were people we bumped into on a UBC freestyle session earlier in the day (Giovanni! Alexa!); others heard about it through the grapevine. Giovanni offered to sharpen Elin’s and Douglas’ skates at Cyclone Taylor, where he reconnected with Neal Countryman (who was Prince Philip in Disney on Ice). Some of the literary community members included Poet Laureate Rachel Rose, Lindsay Brown, Sarah Turner, Mohammed Kebbewar, Elena Johnson, and Mikaela Asfour, daughter of my V6A co-editor John Asfour. Leah Horlick, Anne Fleming and Gilles Cyrenne grabbed a quick photo with me after the reading. And my excellent Anvil Press Publishers Karen Green and Brian Kaufman hung in the back. Poet/doctor/tango dancer Karen Shklanka skated, too!
We all took the ice while Elin and Douglas warmed up for their presentation of “Meditation”, a duo figures demonstration with an element of moves in the field, a series of edges. Although there were only two of them they captured the sense of a school of fish or flock of birds. In fact, those moves are called “flocking”. Thanks, Lindsay Brown, for whipping out the iPhone in time to catch this!
As they skated figure eights and serpentine loops I read the poem “School Figures” over the music – I wish the soundsystem had been more collaborative, but tried my best to project. Again, so good to work with professionals who can pivot on a dime. Literally.
What was wonderful was to be on ice as they skated – we were watching near the hockey box. We could hear the edges and feel the air moving as they skated past.
Elin performed the Canadian debut of “Serpentine Loop” – you can see it here – which is a physical representation of what I am trying to evoke with words. Elin read my manuscript, drew key words out of it, thought about the structure and movement of the ideas and then turned it into a skated choreography. Not only is that a huge artistic gift for me, but it’s a new way of working for her, and funny enough, it took quite some time for the program to settle down – like mercury it slipped away and moved, shifted. Each time I have seen her skate it I have loved it even thought it has been different! She is so gifted!
A surprise of the night was the gift of not one but TWO pairs teams. Diana Barkley and Geoff Squires are Adult World Champions (they learned dance pairs as adults) – and they performed a fantastic swingy number. They are coached by Canadian Olympians Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe.
A second team, Canadian National Seniors Haley Sales and Nikolas Wamsteeker, who are BC Regional Champions, did their show number.
If you have never been on ice with a high-level dance team you may not have any idea of the energy flying over the surface.
They were fantastic – and you will surely be seeing much more of them! They had been up since 4am but were completely energized. We hope we get to collaborate in some way, shape or form.
Another gift was a visit with skating coach Jocelyn McNeil and her daughter, Tenley, who is named after our mom, Tenley Albright! I met Jocelyn at a reading at PulpFiction Books in the fall and was so happy to introduce Elin.
Here’s a group photo, by the intrepid Liisa Hannus, who shot all of the photos for the night. She even double-handed stills and video at one point! For this picture she walked out on ice before she even had her skates on. And no falling!
Thanks again to the great staff at Hillcrest, to the performers and skaters and attendees!