Jenn Edwards’ journey from figure skating to professional dance and back again

Edwards makes moves as a multidisciplinary performer. PHOTO: Garrett Kling

By: Sara Wong, Peak Partner

When someone asks me if I miss my figure skating days, I usually sum it up with“I lack performance. I don’t miss the pressure and the intensity. In an interview with SFU alum and former competitive skater Jenn Edwards, I was heartened to discover that I was not alone in this experience. Now Edwards has found a place to skate again with The Free Skatea monthntreathe company based. Over email, Edwards described what led her to back on the ice.

“Looking back, the competition made me quite anxious,” Edwards said. “I didn’t like being out there alone in front of the judges. And as I progressed and the jumps got more difficult, I started to realize that it was the dance element of skating that I really loved.

Unfortunately, there are few ways for figure skaters to turn professional outside of competition. As Edwards said in a interview with Dance International, she “wasn’t interested in being a coach or dressing up as disney character.” So, at 18, Edwards put away his skates and began studying at SFU.

“I came to SFU not really knowing what I wanted to do for a career,” admitted Edwards. As she enjoyed AP English in high school, she started working towards an English degree. But athletics were still important to Edwards.

“My plan was to minor in dance, because I had just stopped skating and wanted something to get me moving,” she said. “But then I became obsessed with modern and contemporary dance and ended up getting degrees concurrently.”

After graduating, Edwards’ career as a performer and choreographer took her around the world. She is currently based in Newfoundland and Labrador, where she also works as a yoga, barre fitness and off-ice movement instructor. She contributes to dance magazines and tours with a local band called Ptmageddon. Despite these successes, figure skating remains Edwards’ first love. Thanks to Patin Libre, she has a place to revisit and express her joy on ice.

“I discovered Le Patin Libre for the first time in 2017, when The cult presented their show Vertical influences in Vancouver,” Edwards said. While The Cultch hosted Le Patin Libre, their performances took place at the Britannia Ice Rink. Being in familiar surroundings, but seeing figure skating like never before, Edwards “knew pretty much immediately that it was something [she] should be part of. She approached the artistic director of Patin Libre, Alexandre Hameland learned that they were quietly holding auditions. Although he lost about a decade of practice, Edwards tried and won a place in the company.

What differentiates Le Patin Libre from traditional skating clubs is the emphasis on movement and theatricality, less privileged elements in competitions, even showcases. The elimination of elitism allows for a more welcoming creative atmosphere. Edwards shared she feels meore connected to a figure skating community now with Le Patin Libre. “I love how much we’re encouraged to be authentic in the performance. There’s no pretension, we don’t have to liven up anything or put smiles on our faces,” he said. She added, and because Le Patin Libre is a group, moving as one on the ice, Edwards no longer has to skate alone.

The last show of the Patin Libre, Whispers, presents the same principles but on a completely different scale. “There are 15 skaters, whereas all previous plays had only five,” Edwards explained. With more emphasis on a large set, the idea is to imitate a flock of birds.

Watch the trailer, I had chills almost instantly. Aside from the visual of a skater covered in ice crystals, the group’s collective movements were haunting and jumpy. They glided so gracefully, yet with such precision. I have rarely seen this kind of choreography in a figure skating routine before.

“When we move together, we are constantly making these careful adjustments and calculations to create the overall picture you see on the ice. It’s really fun to play because it forces you to be so present and connected with everyone in the band,” Edwards said.

After a two-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group recently debuted Whispers in Paris. Although no other shows have been announced on their websiteEdwards revealed that “a presentation in the Lower Mainland is definitely in the works.”

For more from Jenn Edwards, follow her on Instagram @jjedwards. And discover Le Patin Libre on Facebook, instagramand Youtube.

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