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Friday, August 7, 2009

The Sentimentality of David Wilson



(Emily Hughes and David Wilson)

I had been wanting to write about a specific aspect of David Wilson's body of work. Romanticism is not the only style he has done, nor is it the largest component, but it does seem to be very close to his heart. He is very good at adapting himself to each skater's individuality, so it sometimes takes a bit of digging to guess at his own feelings. From the little bit I know about him and the few glimpses in person and, most important, from his most personal work, I conclude that he is a person filled with an enormous amount of emotions and empathy. He feels deeply and acutely. Such people are often both blessed and burdened by their inner richness and sensitivity.

Thus I wrote this and posted it on FSUniverse:

I saw Wilson's first ice dance program, Somewhere in Time, choreographed for Dubreuil and Lauzon, in the fall of 2005 at Skate Canada. At the time I had not seen the movie and did not quite grasp the force of his vision. In the subsequent years, I have been sometimes impressed and sometimes captivated by a number of his programs. It is amazing that he continues to put out at least a few memorable programs every year. The way he cuts music together into a smooth and coherent and dramatic story is ... sublime.

Yesterday I watched the movie Somewhere in Time, and then I went back to the Dubreuil/Lauzon free dance on YouTube again. I was floored. Damn him! He put the entire movie into the program. The music theme in the soundtrack by John Barry is extremely emotional and overwhelming. Wilson chose to start with the less familiar tunes outside of the theme and made us wait -- just like the structure of the movie, in which we are made to wait along with the main character Richard (Christopher Reeve) until he meets Elise (Jane Seymour) for the first time over half an hour into the movie. So that when the familiar theme swells up, we are swept away with delicious satisfaction. And the ending, the rising lift that had Marie-France hovering above Patrice, one can easily make the connection with the movie's ending.

In the past few years, Wilson has been steadily and quietly put on some movie-based programs. From Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence to Ararat, to the two distinct Dr. Zhivago last year, he is exploring and presenting an expansively sentimental and unabashedly romantic series of programs.

As common as it is, romance is the hardest genre to do well. An extra half teaspoon of sugar, it turns bitter. An extra half teaspoon of emotion, it feels cheesy. Yet romanticism has a universal appeal to everyone but the most hardened or cynical (or too eager to appear tough, or too young to have tasted disappointment). It is almost impossible to master, because it requires an impeccable emotional calculation with absolute sincerity. In his programs, David Wilson pushes and pushes all the way to the brink of too much, and then stops on a dime before going over the cliff and falling into cheesiness and high fructose corn syrup.

His best work reveals him as a person, like a novel reveals the fundamental psychology of its author and a painting reveals the deepest temperament of the artist. I cannot help but feel convinced that 1) David Wilson loves movies, especially romantic, emotional movies, 2) he is a master of storytelling, 3) he is not at all afraid of bearing his sentimentality and romanticism to the world, 4) he likes to get inside people's heart, find the softest spot, and own it. It is genius. It is the intention of most arts --- to move others and make them feel what you feel and, in the process, connect individual humans with an invisible bond that make us whole.
A few days after I posted this analysis, someone posted a follow-up message:

David Wilson was sent this post by a friend and he said he could not believe what Jun wrote. He said she "totally gets me" and he is going to keep her post because it really touched his heart.

Knowing that he has read it just warms my heart.

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