So apparently the “original dance” in ice dancing doubles as the Olympic’s multi-cultural night… without the culture. My curiosity transformed into astonishment and then annoyance as I saw one couple dance a “country” routine, an American team dance an “Indian” routine, another a “Moldovan” dance, and worst of all a Russian couple who did an Australian Aboriginal dance. This couple had leaves stuck to their costume. Sitting Pugs said they looked like sweet potatoes and tomatoes. I conceded that they did look a bit like garden vegetables. The costumes were “toned down” for Vancouver – they dropped the Blackface and face paint.
Initially, I blamed the dancers. Then I read in a Chicago Tribune article, which came out before last night’s competition in Vancouver, that it was the International Skating Union that decided dancers should use folk themes for their original dance in this Olympic season. Perhaps the Union had hoped couples would interpret folk themes in their own countries. Ok, I sound awfully traditionalist here. The same article is spot on about why all this bothers me so much:
While there is nothing inherently wrong about having dancers interpret ethnic themes, it looks absurdly out of place amidst the frivolity that is ice dance. Even with well-intentioned efforts at sensitivity, there is an element of high camp rather than cultural authenticity when ice dancers do the folk programs.
I’d argue that even the term “folk” is derisive. One person’s “folk” is another person’s every day (or at least partial day) existence. As far as Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalina are concerned, I still blame them. I mean, seriously? If I were Aboriginal, maybe I would die from laughter first before I had the chance to be offended.
I really don’t know why people get it into their mind’s that it’s ok to borrow piecemeal from other people’s cultures for the purpose of performance and exhibit. I’m reminded somewhat of the colonial fairs and exhibitions that took place in Victorian London primarily to showcase conquests of foreign lands. However, in this case, it’s probably even worse; it borders on parody. The only couple that did this round of competitive ice dancing any true justice (yes, I realize oxymoronic in and of itself as I’m not sure this is actually a sport) was probably the Israeli one, who danced albeit predictably to Hava Nagila. And the Canadian pair who did something which could have resembled a paso doble.
Given that the Winter Olympics is pretty much OECD + well… nothing, this context was doubly unfair. Also, contrary to figure skating, there are no Asians in ice skating (I don’t blame their parents for thinking it would be a stupid endeavor for their kids). As always, it’s cool to be ethnic… as long as one is not actually ethnic.
Sitting Pugs and I would like to propose cosplay for ice dancing couples in Sochi, Russia in 2014. They should get started on ordering their costumes now. Here are some suggestions.
Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask
Heero Yui and Relena Peacecfraft (Gundam required)
Pikachu and… Chu-Chu?
Anyways, I’m off my soapbox now.