January 21, 2010

Russian skaters do "Aboriginal dance"

'Aboriginal' skating routine has Russian pair on thin ice

By Tom ReillyIN THE fiercely competitive world of international figure skating, performers will do anything to get an edge. For Russian world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, the desire to stand out from the crowd has led them to unveil a new "Aboriginal dance" to perform at next month's Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

In dark-toned bodysuits, complete with what they claim are authentic Aboriginal paint markings, the pair easily won their national ice dance competition three weeks ago at their first performance of the routine, making them favourites for gold. But while the judges in St Petersburg may have been impressed, many in the Aboriginal community are not.

"I am offended by the performance and so our other councillors," said Bev Manton, chair of the NSW Land Council yesterday. "Aboriginal people for very good reason are sensitive about their cultural objects and icons being co-opted by non-Aboriginal people--whether they are from Australia or Russia.
Where the Russians got their "inspiration":Within ice-skating circles there are suspicions the Russians may have "borrowed" the idea for an Aboriginal dance from Australian rivals Danielle O'Brien and Greg Merriman.

The Sydney-based pair first performed an Aboriginal dance at a Korean competition in 2008--after spending a year in consultation with the indigenous community to ensure their performance, music and costumes respected Aboriginal culture.
How they made their performance "authentic":Asked about their research of Aboriginal culture, Domnina said: "We've watched video clips on the internet of these dances and it is really like this--complete with the leaves around the knees."Comment:  To my untrained eye, these costumes look like obvious imitations, not genuine reproductions. We can only imagine how badly the skaters have misunderstood and misrepresented the dance.

If you're going to imitate an indigenous ceremony, at least do some real research. O'Brien and Merriman did it the right way. Domnina and Shabalin did it the wrong way.

For another ice-skating controversy, see Skater Dances "Last of the Mohicans" in a Skimpy Outfit. For similar controversies at beauty pageants, see Miss Peru Wears Bolivian Costume and Pageant Contestant = Sexy Chief.

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