Thursday, February 25, 2010
Racism on Ice: Russian Ice Dancers Co-Opt Aboriginal Culture at the Olympics
No. Just no. For ice dancing in the Olympics this year, the theme was folk dancing. Who knew it would turn into this?
Despite the controversy Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin created when Aboriginal leaders found out the Russian ice dancers' routine was an unbelievably offensive interpretation of Aborginal dance, all they did was "tone down" their costume (meaning not use as much face paint) but the dance was not altered. They came in third place on Sunday's competition. Via Yahoo! Sports:
The dance they did was more likely their interpretation of Aboriginal dance, though they claimed to have done research. Watching the dance Sunday night, one can understand why Aboriginal leaders were offended.
At times, Shabalin led Domnina around by her ponytail. They mugged, stuck out their tongues and mimicked the hand over mouth gesture that was once associated with American Indians.
You can see the routine here, it's pretty difficult to watch. Bev Manton, chairwoman of the New South Wales state Aboriginal Land Council said:
"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."
She also notes the fact that their dark body suits put them on a "very slippery slope" to begin with. Sol Bellear of the Council adds, "We see it as stealing aboriginal culture, and it is yet another example of the aboriginal people of Australia being exploited."