Ice Theatre of New York

Last night, June 8, 2017, Ice Theatre of New York held its Spring Unplugged at Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers. It kicked off with a performance of the poem “School Figures” from serpentine loop skated by Denise Beaumont, Elisabeth L’Heureux, Katherine Mangiardi (above) and Wendy Wilke. Big thanks to Moira North for inviting this collaboration and to all the ITNY staff for a spectacular night which culminated in a spectacular sunset.

I was so happy to be there with friends and family, including my mother Tenley Albright, Douglas Webster and Steffani Bennett (pictured) below with John Kline.

Beautiful performances of the night included “Alberta Biography” skated by Eliot Halverson (in a plaid Canadian shirt) to bird calls. It was choreographed by Fred Nowosad and reset by Moira North. Eliot’s deep edges, humour and skill made this fascinating piece a stand out. And Joel Dear and Christian Erwin’s luscious “In Passing” was a stunning example of single gender pairs. Their connection to their choreography and their supple musculature were a real pleasure.

BUST

Bust magazine is one of the few general interest magazines to include poetry in its book reviews section. In fact, they have a Poetry Corner and it is written by three-book author, director, and actor Amber Tamblyn. The April/May issue includes her review of serpentine loop.

How exciting is this review? Very. Not only because it puts serpentine loop in conversation with the slate of interesting books in the issue but because it leaps over the 49th parallel, that invisible yet dense divide between US and Canadian readers. As a writer rooted with one foot on each side of the border, this feels great. And being a long-time Bust fan myself I am thrilled. This sort of support in the form of a considered, attentive review is a real gift. Here it is:

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In poet Elee Kraljii Gardiner’s beautiful debut collection, serpentine loop (Anvil Press), she explores the magnificence of life’s circular tropes through the lens of figure skating; the repetition of painful events, the balancing dance of love and desire, the tough climates of an existentially glacial world. In “Outdoors, Ice” Gardiner, a former figure skater who hails from Vancouver, writes: “Through an ice hole. Hidden from the/moonlight in the shadow of a bridge. The delayed/surfacing of the body was probably due to its being/pinned under an ice sheet….” The poem in and of itself is shaped like a circle, shedding light on a mysterious frozen body discovered by children. In “Main Artery Along the River,” Gardiner writes of finding a man who has just been in a severe car accident: “For days the sensation of his open mouth turns you/off food. Eat out of duty./The wounded take all forms.” With too many great poems inside to quote, Gardiner’s lush, piercing collection is layered with climatological subtext and personal history, sure enough of its voice to thaw the coldest of hearts.

Writers Resist, Writers Respond

I’m happy to be hosting Writers Resist, Writers Respond at the Vancouver Public Library‘s one-day literary festival on Saturday, May 13, 2017, 10:30am-12pm, in the Alice McKay Room. It’s the third event I have hosted towards the conversation of social justice and creativity.

Join me and three writers who are engaged in social justice for a morning of creative listening and writing. Each author will share a poem of their own and one by an author of their choice. After the readings listeners are invited to activate as writers, crafting on-the-spot responses (on any topic) that can be added to a community archive in the room. Paper and pen provided; all welcome. No need to write; listeners are appreciated!

I’m thrilled to creating this event with three strong thinkers:

Julie Park-54Juliane Okot Bitek is a Liu Scholar at the Liu Institute for Global Issues and a Poetry Ambassador for the City of Vancouver’s Poet Laureate Rachel Rose. She is completing her dissertation in the department of Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program at UBC. Juliane’s book of poetry, 100 Days, was published by the University of Alberta Press in 2016. The book was the result of a project, inspired by the photographs of Wangechi Mutu, in which Juliane wrote a poem a day for one hundred days in the summer of 2014, each a response to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. It has been shortlisted for the 2017 Pat Lowther Award, the 2017 Dorothy Livesay Award for Poetry and is a finalist for the 2016 Foreword INDIES Award for Poetry.

image001Sonja Larsen has been collecting stories her whole life. As a kid she hitch-hiked across country and lived in 3 communes and one cult. As an adult she has worked as a telephone solicitor, bartender, freelance writer, teacher, and youth worker in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Her fiction has appeared in literary magazines, including Room, Descant and a flash fiction anthology. Her memoir RED STAR TATTOO (Random House 2016) was shortlisted for the 2016 Hilary Weston Writer’s Trust Non-Fiction award.

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Leah Horlick is a writer who grew up as a settler on Treaty Six Cree Territory in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Her first collection of poetry, Riot Lung (Thistledown Press, 2012), was shortlisted for a 2013 ReLit Award and a Saskatchewan Book Award. Her second collection, For Your Own Good (Caitlin Press, 2015), was named a 2016 Stonewall Honour Book by the American Library Association. Along with Esther McPhee, Leah co-curates REVERB, Vancouver’s only queer and anti-oppressive reading series. Last year she was awarded the 2016 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers.

Writers Resist, Writers Respond is just one of many events taking place this day on the unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh people.

Here is info on the schedule.

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serpentine loop Shortlisted

Thank you to the League of Canadian Poets for including serpentine loop on the RAYMOND SOUSTER AWARD 2017 SHORTLIST. I am delighted to have a connection with this excellent group of poets! The other nominees are:

Disturbing the Buddha by Barry Dempster (Brick Books) | silent sister: the mastectomy poems by Beth Everest (Frontenac House) | Serpentine Loop by Elee Kraljii Gardiner (Anvil Press) | Burning in this Midnight Dream by Louise Bernice Halfe (Coteau Books) | The Waking Comes Late by Steven Heighton (House of Anansi Press) | Après Satie – For Two and Four Hands by Dean Steadman (Brick Books)

The winner will be announced in June in Toronto.

 

Rockefeller Center

On April 5, 2017 at 1pm Ice Theatre of New York is skating one of my poems (“School Figures”) during their half hour performance at the gorgeous outdoor landmark, Rockefeller Center. If you are in NYC and free on lunch hour, this Wednesday will be a treat – it includes a program by Canadian skater Elladj Baldé. Brian Orser, who is teaching a seminar later in the week, will be there, too. I first skated at Rock Center when I was eight years old and performed with my mother at the lighting of the Christmas tree. I’m sorry not to make it – if you go, I’d love to see photos or video.

Thank you, Ice Theatre skaters and directors, for bringing this poem to the ice!

 

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We Skated the Book

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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!

Skate the book-19A 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.

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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. 17499301_1901160786787960_7384193443629322108_n

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.

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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!

Skate the Book.Liisa Haanus

Thanks again to the great staff at Hillcrest, to the performers and skaters and attendees!

 

Skate the Book!

UPDATE: EXCITING NEWS: We are thrilled to announce the addition of performances by two ice dance pairs coached by Olympians Aaron Lowe and Megan Wing! Haley Sales and Nikolas Wamsteeker are 2017 National Team members,International competitors for Canada, 2017 challenge bronze medalists and 2017 BC provincial champions. Diana Barkley and Geoff Squires are the Adult World Dance Champions. This is a rare chance to be on ice with top level performers, hear their edges and see how fast they skate.

Come be a part of a collaborative, perfomative and participatory skating event based on the book of poems about ice, serpentine loop.tea-and-ekg-lacing-skates

Friday, March 24, 2017, 9:00pm-11:15pm
Hillcrest Community Centre Rink
4575 Clancy Loranger Way
Vancouver, BC V5Y 2M4

This event takes place on the unceded lands of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

img_0317Free event, open to public. Spectators and non-skaters welcome. Rental skates available or bring your own! Bring your kids, friends, neighbours and anyone else who wants to skate for fun.

We know it’s late-ish but the ice was cheap! Before we get on the ice at 10pm we’re featuring a ten minute reading and a short off ice talk by professional skaters Elin Schran and Douglas Webster. After that Douglas and Elin are going to demonstrate some figures and edges and then  Elin is going to skate the Canadian debut of the program she choreographed of the book!

Is this crazy? Perhaps. But figure skating and writing share elements of language. On-ice moves include “paragraphs” and “brackets,” for example, and both work with an idea of inscribing the blank sheet. serpentine loop uses the vocabulary of skating to push off from the frozen river and rink and discuss issues of gender, social justice and how we treat each other. The book, in its second printing and named twice to The Walrus’ Best of 2016 list, arises from the my experience growing up around ice as the daughter of US Olympic figure skating gold medalist Tenley Albright. I actually sequenced the poems at the Skating Club of Boston by laying the pages out by the barrier. Now the poems are leaping off the page onto the ice.

elin-schranProfessional figure skater Elin Schran, my sister, will perform the Canadian debut of the short performance she choreographed based on serpentine loop. Elin Schran is the co-founder of Boston-based Frozen Frog Productions and is the innovator of IceFlow (a yoga-inspired skating class). She is a choreographer and performer with experience in many shows including Ice Capades, and taught for five years at Dorothy Hamill’s Fantasy Skating Camp.

Elin is joined by US skater and professional choreographer Douglas Webster, who will speak about the shared vocabulary of skating and writing before taking the ice to demonstrate school figures and a variety of edges in tandem with Elin Schran.

douglas-websterProfessional skater and choreographer Douglas Webster co-founded the internationally-recognized Ice Dance International in 2014 to create classical and contemporary ice ballet with a professional company. Currently, Douglas is the Creative Director for Shall We Dance on Ice, an ABC TV special that features ice dancing and ballroom. He has worked with Disney on Ice, Holiday on Ice, Stars On Ice, The Sun Valley Ice Show and served as the Artistic Director of Ice Theatre of New York (ITNY) as well as their Associate Artistic Director, Resident Choreographer and Ensemble Director. He is on the staff of Grassroots to Champions and on the boards of the Young Artists Showcase and The Dance Hall in his hometown of Kittery, Maine.

Previous iterations of the event have been held in New Hampshire and Massachusetts but this is our first Canadian event.

Tentative schedule:

 

9:00pm-9:45pm: In Hillcrest Centre Community Room 328
Welcome, snacks and drinks, 10 minute poetry reading by Elee Kraljii Gardiner from serpentine loop, brief artists’ talk by Doug Webster and Elin Schran

9:45pm-11:00pm: everyone (all levels and abilities) welcome to skate, rentals available

10:00pm: we ask people to move to edge of ice to watch Elin Schran and Doug Webster perform short demo of school figures and edges

10:10pm: Elin Schran performs serpentine loop, a two-minute skating program based on the book

10:10pm: Adult World Dance Champions Pairs team Diana Barkley and Geoff Squires perform

10:15pm: Haley Sales and Nikolas Wamsteeker,
2017 National Team members,International competitors for Canada, 2017 challenge bronze medalists and 2017 BC provincial champions perform

10:15pm -11pm: free skating for everyoneElin Kendall CraneVenue is accessible to City of Vancouver standards and equipped with elevators. For details please contact Hillcrest Community Centre, 604-257-8680

We hope to see you!