Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The Cult of Matt Savoie's The Mission
A funny phenomenon I've noticed over the years: From time to time I hear a fan confess that she likes to go back and watch Matt Savoie's 2005-2006 free skate The Mission, although his short program from that season is also well loved. And I, too, feel the urge to re-watch The Mission once in a while and think about it more often.
It is by no means the one and only all-time-favorite program of mine. Yet, I am most haunted by it. There is an almost mysterious pull that draws me back again and again. The beautiful, calm, and delicate first half, followed by tension and restrained conflicts in the second half. The program is rich, complex, nuanced, and abstractly emotional (or emotionally abstract?).
There is no story, no dramatic arc, no carved-out foothold for the viewers to latch their emotions onto, no obvious effort to move and persuade and win someone, everyone, over to his side. It is a journey, a mission, that some of us willingly take with him, down the winding paths, into the dark forest, quietly, to a world never discovered.
An important element of modern art is that the recipient (audience, viewer, listener) has to do a lot of work to meet the artist half way. The effort, the experience, the process, is as much part of the artwork as the work itself. There is no one right answer. The ultimate effect of the piece is what the artist and the recipient create together. In this particular piece, however, Matt Savoie gave as much as he can give without any pretension or condescension, but not an iota more than necessary. No easy answers but plenty of impact. It is all there for those who are receptive.
A recent interview with Tom Dickson offers an answer to something I had been wondering about. Apparently, Savoie was finally able to allow himself revealed to such a large extent only in that season, his last in eligible competition. The intensity and depth of feelings that this young man possesses, which we fans had only suspected before from his deep-set eyes, were finally, (relatively) fully let out in the program and performances.
I sometimes wonder whether his experience with this last season --- not just being able to go to the Olympics, but feeling safe and strong enough to reveal so much of himself to others, strangers, and bond with us all --- left a lasting effect on him as a person as he went into the world from Peoria.
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