Monday, February 22, 2010

Trying to dance like an Aborigine!!!!

from w
Tonight we were watching the Winter Olympics on TV and I was astonished at the really awful Russian ice-skaters pretence at Aboriginal culture. I'm not an expert on ice skating but I know a bit about cultural appropriation and insults. What a dreadful display was the Russian ice skaters take on Australian aboriginal culture. Grossly insulting. No knowledge obviously of traditional dance or even the Bangarra's elegant modern dance. Their costumes were ridiculous, their dance moves a travesty and nothing like Aboriginal dance. The music too was stupid. Who were their dance teachers, their cultural advisers. Extreme ignorance, that's all I can say.

Though I do think it's alright for non-indigenous dancers to mimic a cultural dance, there needs to be respect and there was none in this display. How the judges could mark them up I don't know!

The Herald Sun writer is correct in the following words:
Russians Maxim Shabalin and Oksana Domnina win gold for tackiest stunt at the Winter Olympics Josh Massoud From: Herald Sun February 23, 2010 12:00AM
Elders offended over figure skating controversy.

THEIR tacky plastic gum leaves and red loincloths didn't win Maxim Shabalin and Oksana Domnina any Aboriginal friends at the Winter Olympics yesterday.
But the Russian pair look likely to land a medal thanks to the inflammatory routine - and they're not apologising for it.

After provoking fury among indigenous groups at last month's European Championships, Shabalin and Domnina hinted they would alter their costumes for the Games.

When they slid on to Pacific Coliseum for the original component of the ice dancing program yesterday, their facial paint had disappeared and Shabalin wore a lighter-toned brown body suit.

But there remained an abundance of ammunition to offend Australia's indigenous population. nfluential rights campaigner and academic Jacki Higgins said all Aborigines were entitled to feel insulted when they saw the dance last night.

Related CoverageNikki Ashby: Nothing cultural about this act
"I felt deeply insulted that in this day and age ice skaters would dress up like that," Ms Higgins said. It's comedy really. Like people dressing up as American squaws or black Americans with shiny faces. here's theft of intellectual property around this stuff. boriginal Australians would be entitled to feel insulted."

University of NSW global professor Dr Vivien Johnson described the costumes as "ludicrous" and was further insulted to learn the routine had top-scored and put the Russian pair six points clear ahead of today's final routine. Generally speaking, (the dance) is the most sacred and sequestered area of Aboriginal culture and it's not something you can mime on ice," she said. It's ludicrous and disrespectful. What were they thinking? They weren't thinking."

Back stage after the routine, the pair were confronted by reporters. Shabalin acknowledged the original outfits - in particular his chocolate-brown body suit - had caused offence and were "too much". "I don't know why it's offensive, but we had to change it a little bit and make it lighter," he said. Domnina said of the controversial dance routine: "Actually, we were happy about it. It showed that we touched something. No other couple got so much press."

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Anonymous ally said...

There was a lot of this going on in the original program of Ice Dance yesterday: I think it was an American pair (might have been Canadian) that did an East Indian dance, a French team did a "cowboy" hoe-down, another American team did a "Moldovan folk dance". From what I saw, only the Israeli team used music from their own country!

10:45 AM  
Blogger annie said...

One expects, these days, people to be culturally sensitive. Especially people in the arts and the multi-cultural Olympics. Events like these show that cultural awareness does not go far and is shallow at best.


11:18 AM  
Blogger Marissa said...

Re: ally

Actually, of the 28 or so teams that danced, most did their own ethnic dances. There were two other Russian teams that both did Russian dances. The team from Great Britain did a Celtic dance. etc. etc. The teams that did appropriate other cultures mostly did so in a respectful way. The American team that did the East Indian dance had it choreographed by an Indian dance instructor. The Russian team that did the "Aborigine" dance never even met an Aborigine person. They made the dance into a cartoon.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Whiner said...

I went into watching that routine having vaguely heard there was controversy and expecting to think it was an overreaction... but I ended up being quite uncomfortable with the routine they performed.

I don't know a thing about Aboriginal dances, I admit, but I doubt they look like that, and I'm sure there's more meaning to them. Their movements felt random and purposeless. All the folk dances have to be 'interpreted' into the medium, but there is supposed to be a core essence intact... if there was anything at the core of this routine I couldn't see it.

They looked clownish, especially with the way she grinned as she skated. They claimed, in response to the complaints, that the dance was about their 'respect' for the culture... if they respected the culture, why didn't they have any advisors from the culture?

On top of that, it simply wasn't very good/engaging, IMO. Watching it, I was mostly puzzled, and the audience seemed to be as well.

Now, one of the teams from England did an American-Country routine which was comedic and could be vaguely seen as making fun. However, that sort of comedy is not unusual for actual Country-style routines. (Also, it was a more entertaining routine. IMO.)

3:14 PM  
Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Hello Ally, Annie, Marissa and Whiner, I don't have a problem with a dancer or dancers learning a cultural dance from another country or ethnic group, as long as it is done respectfully and probably with a teacher from that other culture. Recently at a Fiji Indian wedding we watched visiting dancers performing Indian dances and I thought there was something a bit different. Well, they came from Russia so perhaps Russians are into trying out new moves! In Fiji sometimes vavalagis (strangers - European tourists) have a go at performing mekes but that is for enjoyment and good will. At the standard of Olympics there needs to be extreme care and consideration firstly when choosing the dance, and secondly in the performance to be authentic in movements. Fusion music and dance are fine as long as they are called that, but in the case of the Russian dancers they explained that they had researched Aboriginal dance and were doing it right! Translating a dance on sand to one on ice will of course have different moves but... this performance was a joke except that is wasn't funny.

6:23 PM  
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12:30 AM  

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