Jan 22, 2010, 10:00 AM EST
Look, everyone knows that my ice dancing career was cut short when I choreographed a routine for myself and my partner entitled “Michael Vick Did a Very Bad Thing.” So I can empathize with Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, who are taking heat for their planned routine at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. As you can see to the right here, their presentation is pretty freaky deaky; as if J.M. Barrie tried psychedelic mushrooms. Are they wood nymphs? Is it a tribute to the Batman villain Posion Ivy? None of the above. It’s a routine based on Australian Aboriginal dance; but the problem is, actual Aboriginal leaders are horrified by the portrayal.
“We see it as stealing aboriginal culture, and it is yet another example of the aboriginal people of Australian being expolited,” Sol Bellear, an elder of the South Wales state Aboriginal Land Council, told Reuters.
The designs, according to Bev Manton, chairwoman of the Land Council, are “no more ‘authentic’… than the shiploads of cheap ‘Aboriginal’ tourist trinkets that pour into our country from overseas”.
As if offending the custodians of an ancient culture were not bad enough, Domnina, 25, and Shabalin, 27, have also been accused of appropriating the idea from rival Australian skaters, Danielle O’Brien and Greg Merriman.
The routine took second place in original dance for the Russians at the European Championships in Estonia on Thursday, keeping the team on track for the overall gold medal going into today’s free dance.
I tend to love a good controversy, so I’m looking forward to this routine at the Winter Games. But the Russians are in for stiff competition from the Canadians and their routine, “Tribute to Cheap Prescription Drugs.”
Russian Pair Fuels Controversy With Aboriginal Dance [New York Times]
Skating on thin ice: Russians’ Aboriginal routine fails to amuse [The Independent]
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