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Ice Dance International performs with soaring grace and powerful artistry

Susan Saccoccia

A recipient of NEA Arts Journalism fellowships in dance, theater and music, Susan reviews visual and performing arts in the U.S. and overseas.

Ice Dance International performs with soaring grace and powerful artistry
Ice Dance International performs “In the Light” (2016), choreographed by Douglas Webster. PHOTO: Susan Saccoccia

The soaring grace and artistry of ice dancing and its expressive power were on full display Saturday night at the Boston Skating Club, where Ice Dance International (IDI) performed a thrilling, 90-minute program of 13 short works.

Based in Kittery, Maine and currently on a six-week tour, the 10-member company, all former champion competition skaters, is led by Executive Artistic Director Douglas Webster, an IDI co-founder.

Spanning the entire rink in seconds in high-speed formations or spiraling into intimate duos, the ice dancers performed the daunting and complex movements of ballet and contemporary dance — but glided through space as they did it, endowing dance with the flow and feeling of flight. Sleek and expressive costumes by Alicia Jackson are integral to this magical blend, with colors and styles tuned to the spirit of each work.

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Opening the program was the spellbinding “Perpetual Motion” (2020), choreographed by Webster to a lush, kinetic composition, “Perpetuum Mobile,” by the Penguin Café Orchestra. Three men and three women moved in concentric formations that rapidly morphed in size and then unfurled into duos and solos with astonishing speed.

The second piece, Webster’s “In Space” (2018), paired Klabera Komini and Neill Shelton, who sailed across the ice to a modernist waltz, connected to each other by a blue scarf. In “Wind Dancer” (2016), choreographed by Stephanee Grosscup, soloist Rohene Ward rendered the yearning in the great Donovan folk song, “Catch the Wind.”

“Reflections” (2017) by French choreographer Benoît Richaud, was performed by Alissa Czisny and Kseniya Ponomaryova to a delicate duet by Arvo Pärt for cello and piano. The two women, in flowing pink attire, mirrored each other as they crossed the ice with swirling arabesques and then paused, slowly touched each other’s faces, began again, and then parted ways.

Seven of the evening’s 13 works were choreographed by Douglas, who combines expansive, rink-spanning movement with intimate interaction, as dancers fan out and then zoom into interlocked pairs. IDI’s repertoire features works by leading choreographers in the world of dance as well as figure skating.

Acclaimed contemporary dance choreographer Trey McIntyre created an angular funfest for IDI with “A Blade of Sunshine” (2018). Three men and two women in playful party attire perform snappy synchronized formations, and split-second slides send men between the legs of their partners, all to exuberant music by indie-rock artist Ben Kweller and Everett-based multi-genre band Parsonsfield.

Former ballet superstar and founding artistic director of Miami City Ballet, Edward Villella is an IDI co-founder. He choreographed the suave, syncopated “The Three Smokers (Men’s Trio)” (2014), performed by Adam Kaplan, Ian Lorello, and Rohene Ward, crisply attired in tux, to an Artie Shaw Orchestra recording of “Back Bay Shuffle.”

The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s infectiously rhythmic “Take Five” inspired Benoît Richaud’s 2017 work by the same name, a series of staccato formations for four men. Alissa Czisny performed Webster’s “Primavera” (2020), a balletic solo to a cello suite by YoYo Ma. “Till the End” choreographed by company member Rohene Ward, paired Collin Brubaker and Kseniya Ponomaryova for a lyrical duo to soulful ballad in a blue key by Des’ree and Tim Atack.

Webster’s dark and dramatic “After the Rain” (2015), a tango-infused trio piece to accordion-rich music by the Hard Tango Chamber Band, cast two women and a man in alternating couplings and trios. The unpaired dancer circles the couple in increasingly smaller arcs and then takes the place of one of the partners.

In July 2019, IDI became the first ice skating company to perform at Jacob’s Pillow, the renowned summer dance festival in Becket, Massachusetts, using a synthetic platform that mimicked the properties of ice. Saturday’s program included two works by Webster that IDI premiered at Jacob’s Pillow: “Luminous” and “Flight.”

Set to shimmering music by Max Richter, “Luminous” is performed by three men and three women attired in leotards streaked with black, red, yellow, and orange. When they concluded, gathered in a tight circle, their bodies bent back and arms raised upward, the group resembled an exploding firecracker.

In the serene “Flight,” two women and two men whirled in ecstatic spirals until one woman remained, and winding across the ice, she called to mind the lark in the poem that inspired its music by Ralph Vaughan Williams, “The Lark Ascending.”

Webster’s “In the Light” (2016) concluded the program, performed by the entire company to music by Moby — a gospel-inflected rhythmic pop ballad, “One of These Mornings,” and the euphoric vocals of “The Perfect Life.” The ice dancers filled the entire rink with exultant, ecstatic movement, forming circles that, as they expanded in size, evoked the sun.