The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the performing arts. Especially hard hit are performing artists who rely heavily on touring and live performances as their main source of income.
Gen’s Delights had the chance to interview Alexandre Hamel, Founder and Artistic Director of the contemporary ice skating company Le Patin Libre – whose members are all highly trained figure skaters:
The company is currently on tour in the Big Apple for seven days thanks in part to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. The performance of their show IMPRESSIONS: INFLUENCES at LeFrak Center, launched the BAM 2021 season and was also the first in-person live show in New-York since a year!
– Hello Alexandre, with current travel restrictions, border closures, long testing and quarantine periods, how receptive or interested are US cities in welcoming guest artists from Canada? Are there organizations that provide support or guidance?
“There is a lot of interest!
I can speak about my own experience booking tours for Le Patin Libre : artistic presenters have been curious about our work for a few years now. There is a growing understanding and interest in the art of contemporary ice skating. Ice rinks, including outdoor rinks and small community rinks like Lefrak Centre, are places with amazing potential. Because of their immense size, they can welcome quite a lot of people despite the requirement of physical distancing. Thus with these venues available, artistic presenters like BAM are more and more interested in booking off-site, outdoor events. It thrills me. My childhood was defined by ice rinks, to see the opening of these venues to serve new functions and welcome new people is a great opportunity for everybody, especially for kids who are currently growing up with ice rinks as I did. Hopefully some will be inspired to discover a new sports / art form !
I believe it will be complicated for my team to organize tours in a post-pandemic world: the usual border-crossing red tape, tests, lengthy quarantine, might still be in place for a very long time. However we are resilient, patient and supported by very competent people. We will somehow make it work.
I don’t know of specific organizations that specialize in supporting artists with organized tours. However, we are currently generously supported by Canadian institutions that fund the arts. This financial support allows us to take some calculated risks. Our current venture in New York was risky. The appearance of further more stringent health / sanitary measures could have forced a cancellation of the tour. I’m happy that the team we formed with BAM was able to manage these risks in a smart and cautious way.
This time, it paid off!”
– Did you encounter any major difficulties or had to make last minute adjustments / modifications to your show to adhere to local public health regulations? Any advice or tips you can impart to other artists who wish to hit the road and tour?
“Indeed, we created a program specifically attuned to the current pandemic context.
First, physical distancing forced us to seat spectators in a certain way. Because contemporary skating’s base is trajectory (not movement, as in dance), the spatial relation between spectators and performance is crucial. For example, watching a skater glide from left to right is completely different from seeing a skater glide toward you. That is why we had to choose a program that worked with a specific seating plan, created according to sanitary guidelines. In normal times, we have more creative freedom. We even have a double-bill feature where each spectator has two reserved seats so that both pieces can be enjoyed from two separate points of views! It is more difficult to organize such things with the current situation…
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