I don’t know if you caught the original dance from Russian Ice Dancers on Sunday night at the Vancouver Olympics. I couldn’t look away.
Not because I know anything about ice dancing, or because they demonstrated skill according to the commentators. No. I couldn’t look away because I couldn’t believe what their folk costume was.
The clip that the report shows is apparently from an earlier performance, as NBC hasn’t posted the Olympic video to their site yet. But the basic concept of using pieces of Australian Aboriginal (and probably Torres Strait Islander) culture carried through to the Olympics.
The primary difference in the Russian outfits for the Olympics were body suits that more closely matched their natural skin colors with fewer white markings.
What annoys me nearly to the point of anger with the Russians’ outfits is not that they used the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures as their inspiration. The depth and breadth of the many Aboriginal and Islander peoples of Australia would make for a fantastic and beautiful performance.
The problem I had with their performance is the apparent lack of research of or concern for the actual Australian Aboriginal Islander peoples.
A brief survey would show the Russians that the traditional dances and markings of the various Aboriginal and Islander peoples carry specific meanings. And the meanings each mob assigns to the marks or dances differs as much as snowflakes. This quick study would also reveal that the Aboriginal peoples are still very much alive and not stereotypical barbarians, as their dance seemed to convey.
I have spent quite a bit of time in Australia (considering it takes 14 hours on a good flight to get there from where I live) and much of that time has been spent with Aboriginal and Islander peoples. I accept that I could be overly sensitive to the continued marginalization of many peoples (often collected into one whole).
But I don’t think that I am. I would love to hear your thoughts, so please let me know!