Hjørdis Lee has spent much of her life on skates.
Born and raised in New Westminster, she started with the Totem Figure Skating Club before transferring to the Coquitlam Skating Club at the age of eight, where she trained under Bruno Delmaestro for competitive singles.
For her Grade 12 year, she left New Westminster secondary — and her dad in Coquitlam — to move to Barrie, Ont., to practise at the Mariposa School of Skating for pairs, to ready for international events; its alumni include a number of world champions and Olympians such as Brian Orser and Elvis Stojko.
At the age of 22, Lee retired from the competitive circuit after sustaining an injury and she coached briefly; however, Lee missed the stage and, for seven years, she performed on skating shows with the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines while also seeing the world.
In January 2019, Lee landed a dream gig with Cirque du Soleil for its touring production of Crystal, the Canadian circus act’s first ice show. She started in the ensemble before rising to take on the lead role, also named Crystal.
Last March, though, when the pandemic lockdown hit worldwide, the Cirque team was told to finish its remaining two shows in Glasgow, Scotland, and to head home. The hope, at time, was that they would reunite in five months. “I just thought, ‘OK, it’s temporary. I’ll give my body a break and rest.’”
A year later, “we’re still in the same situation — if not worse — for the world.”
VIDEO TO INSPIRE
In an effort to spread hope and happiness, Lee and six fellow artists (including her partner Julien Dulière and Silja Dos Reis, both of whom appeared in Crystal) produced a video under the collective name of Art Believers.
Along with Yuliia Volobueva, Clément Pinel, Antoine Gershwin and Amine Pardan, they showcased their talents of skating, painting, break dancing, piano playing and video editing for the production that was filmed in Nice, France, where Dulière lives (and Lee can visit as a spouse on a travel exemption).
Under tight physical distancing restrictions, they filmed at the Patinoire Olympique de Courchevel and Forum de Courchevel, and picked the song Dance For Me Wallis by Abel Korzeniowsky as background music. The video also uses the French Riveria as its backdrop.
Still, the video doesn’t just highlight their art: It’s also meant to honour the health workers and first responders around the world who saving lives from the novel coronavirus.
As well, the video meant to bring shed light on the entertainment industry, which Lee predicts will be the last business sector to return when the pandemic is over.
“We want to give hope to the artists out there,” she said from her home in Ontario, where she’s spending her days cross training. “This video is to inspire and give hope that all is not forgotten. This will end eventually.”
For now, though, Lee is waiting for word from Cirque for when the Crystal tour will resume. She’s been offered a couple of contracts, in the meantime, “but they get sidelined because the pandemic rules and landscapes are changing.”
Currently, she’s eyeing some multi-media arts projects and hopes to produce more online skating content. “The silver lining to this pandemic is the opportunity to reinvent,” she said.