I have always enjoyed watching figure skating (like the Olympics and the world championships type figure skating; not Barney on Ice type figure skating). I used to know a little bit about how they judged the competition, but since all the judging changes were made, now I just watch for what entertains me personally in a routine.
Last night, watching Russian ice dancing champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin perform their original dance routine in the Olympics, I was neither entertained nor amused. And neither were a lot of Australian Aboriginal leaders.
See, this year’s theme for the original dance portion of the ice dancing competition is “folk dancing.” For some reason, the Russian pair decided to “pay tribute” to the Aboriginal culture with their routine. To me, it looked more like “make fun of” instead of “pay tribute to.”
I thought the costumes were stupid. The “funny faces” the two made throughout the routine, and the way Shabalin “dragged” Domnina by her ponytail in parts of the dance looked like something out of a bad Vaudeville routine. Their moves did not seem particular difficult, nor was their footwork impressive. And to top it off, it all seemed badly skated to me.
Since I am not of Aboriginal descent, my complaints about the dance being offensive don’t count for much. But the complaints of Aboriginal leaders do count. And here’s what Aboriginal leader Bev Manton, chairwoman of the NSW Land Council had to say about it: “I am offended by the performance and so are our other councillors. 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. It’s important for people to tread carefully and respectfully when they are depicting somebody else’s culture and I don’t think this performance does.”