Mar 19, 2012
Breaking the Rules
It's incredibly satisfying to see a skater break the unspoken rules of program composition and still succeed. We need to look no further than Matt Savoie's short program to Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings in 2005 for a wonderful example. Indeed, Mr. Savoie's Adagio for Strings sticks out like a sore thumb among the sea of short programs that have existed both before and since then. You can almost hear the confused murmur of the figure skating judges who judged the program. After all....what is this, a program that has a spin as the first element instead of the first two (or three) judging passes in a row?! In a competition program--ridiculous! And it's set to some quiet depressing piece of classical music that's neither on the list of accepted figure skating warhorses nor easy to phrase movement to? Eh....okay. Moreover, it has not only transitions, but also transitions/moves in the field that exist longer than a few milliseconds, cover a substantial part of the ice surface, have some relation to the music and do not only immediately precede an element in a transparent bid to boost difficulty? Impossible. And fuck, why on earth does it end with some hydroblading instead of a (combination) spin like every other short program?!
Such mass confusion (along with a good dose of reputation judging) would explain why Mr. Savoie was so utterly robbed at the 2005 US National Championships despite skating this beautiful, original program superbly. Even if one looks past the incredibly interpretative and continuous choreography and the deep, heartfelt presentation, there's still the sheer quality of things like that triple axel, the triple lutz with the difficult spread eagle and brackets entry, the spins, those edges. It's sad that the judges at the time failed to properly appreciate this utterly beguiling program, but full marks to Mr. Savoie and his choreographer Tom Dickson for striking such a balance between art and sport with this uncompromising marvel.