Quickhit: Icedancers with a new twist on blackface.

two white ice dancers in brown bodysuits with white swirls, white facepaint, and leaf decorations

Via baby_elvis, this ice-dancing routine.

From the news:

Russian world ice-skating champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin have danced around the controversy surrounding their Aboriginal-themed routine, insisting they will still use it at the Winter Olympics.

Aboriginal elders say the pair’s two-and-a-half minute routine causes serious cultural offence.

But Domnina and Shabalin, favourites to win gold at next month’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver, have defended their routine, which they will perform at the European Championships in Estonia today.

The performance includes ceremonial Aboriginal dance steps, with the pair wearing dark bodysuits with indigenous swirls in white, topped off with red loin cloths and eucalyptus-style leaves.

“Our coach offered us this music and we decided to try it,” Shabalin, 27, told reporters. “We researched it on the internet and got a lot of information. It’s wasn’t our purpose that it be especially Australian; just a dance from many thousands of years ago.”

AFP: ‘Aboriginal’ figure skating routine slammed in Australia

“They have got the whole thing wrong,” said Stephen Page, artistic director of the respected indigenous group, the Bangarra Dance Company.

Page said there were no traditional movements in the routine, the music sounded more like it came from India or Africa than Aboriginal Australia and the body paint looked like “a three-year-old child had drawn it on”.

“It looks more like they were trying to emulate the token savage cave man,” Page told AFP. “That’s insulting to Aboriginal people.”

New York Times: Russian Pair Fuels Controversy With Aboriginal Dance

“We see it as stealing aboriginal culture, and it is yet another example of the aboriginal people of Australia being exploited,” Bellear, of the New South Wales state Aboriginal Land Council, told Reuters on Thursday. […]

Natalia Linichuk, their Russian coach who works with the pair in Aston, Pa., said the highly unusual program, set largely to voices and chants instead of a traditional soundtrack, was not directly based on Australian aboriginal dance or culture but on aboriginal culture in general.

“Aboriginal, it translates from Latin language, it’s from the beginning,” Linichuk said. “We try to represent a picture of this time when aboriginal people start being in the world. It’s no customs, no country, nothing.”

Categories: arts & entertainment, indigenous

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11 replies

  1. It’s almost fitting this is surfacing just prior to Australia Day. I mean, really, the Indigenous Australian peoples just don’t get slapped in the face by white culture hard enough the other three hundred and sixty-four days of the year; we still need to have an extra-special one to “celebrate” the beginning of the whole catastrophe. Gods above, if we’re celebrating nationhood, let’s move it to January 1, and call it “Federation Day” instead.
    If these two want to celebrate tribalism, why not rip off something closer to their own home… such as the Siberian shamanic cultures, Inuit cultures, Lapplander cultures and Native American cultures (all of which would be more suited to something like dancing on ice, of all things, than faux-Indigenous faux-Australian)?
    [This rant brought to you by far too many “Aussie flag” products at the local shops, and the over-promotion of Australia Day as the next Big Retail Date.]

  2. Ugh, that’s truly disgusting.

  3. The music is all wrong. Other than the odd bit of digeridoo, there is nothing Indigenous Australian about it at all. That voice you’re hearing? That’s the sound of an Indian/South Asian man doing the vocal exercises to communicate drum beats on a tabla. That’s how they learn new beats, and that’s how they teach beats to those learning traditional Indian percussion.
    Good gravy, that performance is a mess. And the outfits are ugly.

  4. Notice how the lady dancer’s “skin coloured” bodysuit is lighter than the man’s. Nice touch, there.
    *drowns in fail*

  5. From above:
    ‘ “Aboriginal, it translates from Latin language, it’s from the beginning,” Linichuk said. “We try to represent a picture of this time when aboriginal people start being in the world. It’s no customs, no country, nothing.” ‘
    – See we are not appropriating people’s cultural customs in our quest for glory, we’re really not -> Oh I guess that makes it ok then (Sarcasm).
    That ‘splaining just demonstrates that they know that they are doing something underhand.

  6. We try to represent a picture of this time when aboriginal people start being in the world. It’s no customs, no country, nothing.

    See, they weren’t being racist about Australian Indigenous people, they were being racist about all indigenous cultures. So that’s OK then… oh, wait, no it’s not.

  7. I could not believe it when I saw it.

    On the other hand, there is an Aboriginal-inspired ice skating routine where the dancers apparently did months of consultations to ensure they were respectful of Indigenous culture. Even on a purely aesthetic level it looks much better than this trainwreck.

  8. I watched the routine. It’s creepy and has hardly any moves in it that I have seen elsewhere in Aboriginal dance performances. And yeah, the music is nothing like it. Apart from any other levels of offence, it’s offensive on the basis that they’re saying it’s Indigenous… and yet the music is uh… not Aboriginal music.

    • Their excuse seems to be that it’s meant to be a blending of all sorts of indigenous/aboriginal dance/music, not just Australian Aboriginal. But in that case why choose costumes that were so obviously Australian Aboriginal?

  9. They have really got it wrong haven’t they. Enough like Australian Aboriginal culture and paintings to be really offensive, but not enough like Australian Aboriginal to be authentic thus making it really offensive.

  10. This is horrendous. In so many ways. My husband’s Aboriginal family were mortified.

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