His contemporary ice skating company may have performed in rinks across the globe, but when Alexandre Hamel was invited to Prospect Park’s rink by the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), he was particularly excited.

“It’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here,” the founder and director of Le Patin Libre said of the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park.

Unlike many ice rinks that are intended to control and exclude, LeFrak is one of those rare rinks that is community-oriented, created to make skating accessible to all, he said.

Photo: Rolline Laporte

“When it was built, not too long ago, I followed the story and I was like, ‘Yes, this is so cool! I must talk about this to decision-makers in Montreal’,” he said. “And I did. And now, boom! We’re performing on it.”

Hamel, a former competitive skater, started Le Patin Libre in 2005 out of a desire to use his passion for skating outside of the often-restrictive constraints of figure skating.

The company is made up of former high-level figure skaters who have transformed their athleticism into a free expression on ice comparable to contemporary dance.

While not always welcomed by traditional ice rinks, they’ve been invited to Brooklyn by BAM to present the New York premiere of their show Influences, heralding BAM’s return to in-person programming events. The show has been described by reviewers as “a pure body rush of liberation and space.”

Le Patin Libre at Alexandra Palace, part of Dance Umbrella 2014. Photo: Alicia Clarke

Hamel said it was an “immense privilege” to be one of the first performers invited back post-shutdowns.

“Montreal was also an epicenter of the pandemic and its was tough for lot of people,” he said. “Art is a symbol of life, and here it is. We get to be together and be safe and make things happen.”

Starting Tuesday, Le Patin Libre will be doing six performances in Prospect Park. Viewers can expect something like a contemporary dance performance on ice that has circus-like elements, some dark moments, and other moments that are “very life-affirming and fun.”

As a company, Hamel said Le Patin Libre always advocates for opening ice rinks to more people, and LeFrak is the architectural embodiment of that ethos.

“It’s very rare. Ice rinks are usually closed, hidden somewhere where you want to control athletes in a very paramilitary fashion, almost.”

Photo: Rolline Laporte

The group’s questioning of what ice rinks are, and what they should be, have made traditional ice rinks resistant to their project, he said.

But the fact Brooklyn has welcomed them with open arms has been refreshing.

“It’s not every day athletes become artsy, alternative artists asking questions,” Hamel said. “So now this spirit is being welcomed more and more — and we’re often welcomed in the places that are the most progressive — it’s something very encouraging.”

The band of former competitive ice skaters, including Hamel, Pascale Jodoin, Jasmin Boivin, Samory Ba and Taylor Dilley will soon be gliding, leaping and pirouetting their way across the LeFrak rink.

To book, go to BAM’s website, and check times and prices below.

LeFrak Center at Lakeside, Prospect Park (171 East Dr., Brooklyn) 

Apr 6—10 at 8pm; Apr 10-11 at 2pm 

Tickets: single, $45, pair, $90 

Ages: 5+

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Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a freelance writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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