Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Aboriginal Costume Misstep: Yay or Nay?Welcome To Australia: Russian Ice Dancing Champions The Winter Olympics in Vancouver are only 43 days away and there is already controversy with one of the top Ice Dancing teams from Russia. Do I even need to remind you of why I love Figure Skating? The reigning World Champion Ice Dancing team, Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin from Russia have had a tough time this year and have not been able to participate in the Pre-Olympic International Grand Prix Events. But that didn't stop the Russian Federation from crowning them the Champs with a score that rivaled the best of the season (How do you say quelle surprise in Russian?) Hey Look We Have Plants Growing Out Of Our Bodysuits! But the real controversy was not about their scores, but about their costumes darlings. In the original dance, skaters are required to use music that is based on a national folk tune. Domnina and Shabalin chose very unusual Aboriginal music, using voices as the instruments. Their costumes were based on Aboriginal Tribal-wear (see above) using white body paint and red cloth "crotch covers". But then their costume designer took some Aboriginal "liberty": For some unknown reason they had leaves planted (pun intended) throughout their costume bodysuits and....wait for it....they also were in what some critics have deemed Blackface. Therefore the controversy. The skating bloggersphere forums have been abuzz over it. I think it's a bit odd and in bad taste. But I'd love to know what the rest of you think--or at least my fellow Figure Skating fans. Yay or Nay? UPDATE: Click HERE to see what I thought about their UPDATED costumes at the Olympics, when I reviewed all the Dance Costumes with Kristi Yamaguchi and Peter Carruthers! LIVE!

21 comments:

Libby said...

I say NAY. I think they could have been really tastefully done, but alas, they look kinda ugly, and more like a caricature than a "tribute."
Lose the leaves.

Todd Gwynn said...

I have already reviewed this incident. I have already said this is NOT blackface. End of story.

Flora said...

Not really blackface in the traditional sense of course, but ugly and bizarre, and a hamfisted attempt at so-called tribal culture. What is up with the leaves?!

The program itself is also messy and disorganized and does not show off dance skills very well since the costuming is so distracting. They should have watched videos of the Duchesnays' famous "jungle" number about ten times before they even stepped on the ice.

Anonymous said...

Even if you ignore the offensiveness of changing your skin color to convey a "costume", the whole look smacks of caricature. They've also taken elements that have meaning and purpose in their original cultural context and thrown them all about.....this is insulting.....It has nothing to do with "folk dance"....more like "f-----ed-over dance."

Carrie said...

Major NAY. The costumes are a caricature of native culture. And the music is not at all Australian Aboriginal in origin or intention. A major thumbs down for cultural insensitivity, terrible costumes, and a very bad program.

Anonymous said...

Appropriate for competition? Nay. Appealing to the eye? Nay. Tasteful? Nay. But let's stop this political correctness. Dozens of skaters have used similar themes over the years and some went further than others, but all had to put up with endless criticism for not being sensitive enough to this and that.

Let's stop taking ourselves so seriously. None of these young people are racist. They like the theme, they dance to it. End of story. I think they look silly, but that's an entirely different subject.

Karl said...

It's not blackface, but it's totally offensive. The Herald said these were "authentic Aboriginal paint markings". Well, they don't look like any Aboriginal body paint I've ever seen. Those swirly bits even look like they might be ripped off Maori designs. The Russians' interpretation of this aspect of the culture seems to neglect the possibility that the artwork could hold any meaning. Certainly, the body paint used by the Russians carries only one message: we don't have a clue what we're doing.
Anyway, Yabun is on again this Australia Day at Victoria Park, Sydney. Everyone's welcome - even if you decide to exact a little revenge by dressing as a Russian figure skater.
One mob!

Karl said...

BTW, blackface is not merely about changing your skin colour - there's nothing inherently racist or disrespectful about that. Blackface refers to the whole black-and-white minstrel thing where the actors go so far as to negatively portray the 'black' man as something to be laughed at - a cruel caricature cross of the African savage and the unenlightened slave. Seems people are calling everything blackface since that bloody Hey Hey thing.

Anonymous said...

Just plain Ugly period. Go back and look at the older vintage Mens figure skating costumes. Very classy long black trousers, Eisenhower tuxedo jackets, white shirts and ties.....why, after training so long and so hard, do give up and choose to look like fools....Watch Blades of Glory over and over until you get it people are laughing at you and it isn't because they don't understand the deep conceptual artistic statement they laugh because these skaters are so clueless when it comes to the visual images of clowns on ice.

Anonymous said...

Oh and by the way this is clearly, "black face" period

Owen said...

Someone who wanted to insult a culture wouldn't choose their spot in the Olympics to do it. Why would a lifetime skater willingly throw away their chance at world renown just to insult a culture? These folks weren't trying to mock Aborigines. If anything they were too swept up in the tribal nonsense "Avatar" has inspired. Let's just be grateful they didn't come out in blue body paint and tails.

April. said...

As an Australian living in an aboriginal community in western Australia, I find these costumes ridiculous. Not only is 'ice dancing' a far cry from traditional aboriginal dancing, i can see in no way, shape or form how a russian figure skater can relate to an aboriginal in Australia. Next time they should stick to something they know... how about next time the dress up as Chukchi.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHA Owen you really made me laugh, about the blue suit/tail thing...
Anyway, I am Australian, I have had enough experience with Aboriginal culture to know that this was so NOT authentic. So it's a NAY.
I think that if they had listened properly they would have gotten rid of the green leafy crap and come up with some actual Aboriginal music, and looked at some Aboriginal dance. Maybe actually meeting up with some Aborigines here in Australia would have helped? Should've at least visited Australia. I bet they've never been here in their lives.
I think they were careless and their designer or whoever was very careless.
They are offensive because in this dance they not only represented themselves as Russians but gave a misrepresentation of the very small population of existing Aboriginals and their culture.
They looked and sounded more like they suited the jungles of South America than anything else.
But definitely not Aboriginal.
The Aborigines don't have those jungle sounding drums...at all.
That's just my thought. Disappointing that they just couldn't put more effort into the "Aboriginal" theme. Aborigines also don't do the cute nose kiss thing they did at the end. That's a real Avatar moment.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why people are so upset. It's just a costume, not a jab at another culture. Next time you think a costume is offensive take a deep breath and count to ten.

Anonymous said...

I say YAY! XD I dig crazy costumes... plus they weren't trying to insult anyone they just got carried away. It's not that big of a deal anyway. I mean put things in perspective the world has mass starvation and the Haiti disaster among a million other problems and people are worrying about costumes and whether or not they portrayed a culture right?

Rooski said...

A resounding NAY. The costumes were ridiculous when the intent was to honor the culture. The list of problems with the costumes is endless. In addition, just because there was didgeridoo on the soundtrack doesn't mean it was authentic music. In fact, based on my knowledge of various ethnic music, it was a blend of sounds from several cultures. There is so much great Aboriginal music, both traditional and contemporary, that their selection was appalling and inexcusable. The judges certainly were very "forgiving" of this pair's lack of research and non-adherance to the rules. By they way, I was born and raised in Australia and have a college degree in music.

Rachel Irene said...

ignorance does not absolve the skaters or their handlers of any guilt or offending they have done. as an american living in russia i have seen much more offensive representations of different cultures but they should realize that doing such a thing on the world stage is much different from doing it at home.
i don't think it's a matter of being over-sensitive at all; it's like if i met someone new, and then they turned around and did a horrible impersonation of me after just talking to me for 2 minutes. i think in that case i would have the right to be upset, especially if they did it on global television in front of millions of people.

Anonymous said...

do we have to make everything "racial". Get over it.....let these kids have their wonderful memories of their times in the Olympics rather than making issues out of every little incident. Racial Drama....GO AWAY!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the people who are sick of everything being made racial - but especially only if it is done by white people.
( WHITE CHICKS?? movie)

There was no offense meant and everyone with a brain knows it. Would it be better if the skaters and any performer just ignore everything from any other culture. What about the Americans who did the (Asian) Indian theme, The French doing the cowboy theme...the Village People doing the lumberjack and cop :o}

Not everything is meant to offend, but if EVERYTHING offends, maybe the problem is in the eye of the beholder?

cole hann handbag said...

You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.

man said...

Someone who wanted to insult a culture wouldn't choose their spot in the Olympics to do it. Why would a lifetime skater willingly throw away their chance at world renown just to insult a culture? These folks weren't trying to mock Aborigines. If anything they were too swept up in the tribal nonsense "Avatar" has inspired. Let's just be grateful they didn't come out in blue body paint and tails.
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