The cast of Le Patin Libre’s Vertical Influences may bristle at the very idea, but even the Russian judge would give this skating/dance hybrid a 6.0.

With four of the show’s cast having left the world of professional figure skating for the more creative freedom of Le Patin Libre, the judging reference may leave them cold. For those of us who grew up with the old 6.0 scoring system though, it somehow seems an appropriate metaphor.

It is easy to see why Le Patin Libre is attracting a diverse audience to its shows. And while its combination of figure skating and dance will attract fans of both, one cannot discount the novelty of a performance at a local ice rink.

In performing at the Britannia Rink in East Vancouver, the show effectively removes the barrier of a more traditional arts venue. While a performance on an ice rink may be a necessity for a show like Vertical Influences, there is a psychology at work here that cannot be ignored.  Combined with its unique blend of performance, Le Patin Libre is tapping into communities who would not otherwise find themselves together. Art should do this more often.

Essentially two half hour works, the first half is viewed from the traditional vantage point of the rink’s bleachers. It is familiar and yet foreign as the five skaters combine traditional figure skating techniques with a dance sensibility.

In the second half, and where things heat up (despite the cold), we join the dancers on the ice surface. There is an immediacy to this unique seating arrangement, and perspective created as the skaters start at the far end of the rink is at times otherworldly. Audience members seated on cushions at the edge are at one point delightfully showered with ice.

Vertical Influences is a flawless demonstration of the cast’s skills in both movement and skating.  While all five performers – Alexandre Hamel, Pascale Jodoin, Jasmin Boivin, Samory Ba, and Taylor Dilley – are accomplished skaters, there is something special about watching Boivin. The only self-taught member of the troupe performing in hockey skates, he is also responsible for the show’s evocative music.

In our recent interview, co-founder and cast member Alexandre Hamel was excited by his company’s ability to bring together groups who would not otherwise come together. This is indeed cause for celebration, as much as the performance itself.

Vertical Influences performed and choreographed by Alexandre Hamel, Pascale Jodoin, Jasmin Boivin, Samory Ba, and Taylor Dilley. A Le Patin Libre production presented by The Cultch at the Britannia Ice Rink (1661 Parker St, Vancouver) until April 30.  Visit http://thecultch.com for tickets and information.