Tracee Hamilton of the Washington Post, here, calls the decision by Russian ice dancers Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin to stick with the aboriginal costumes and music that spurred so much controversy “bizarre, to say the least.”
The pair skated in the original dance portion of the ice dancing competition in a routine that brought outrage from Australia’s aboriginal community after it debuted last month in Estonia.
They toned it down some: While both still wear brown body stockings adorned with leaves, and Shabalin wears a loincloth, the body stockings in question are lighter and Domnina no longer has white paint on her face.
And, while they scored well, audience response was decidedly tepid. Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the night’s competition, with Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White coming in second. Domnina and Shabalin ended up in third.
In a Sydney Morning Herald editorial, Bev Manton, chairwoman of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, writes:
“Our dance, our ceremony and even how we look is the basis of much of our culture. Our designs and images have evolved over 60,000 years. We’re understandably fond of them, and we don’t like seeing them ripped off and painted onto someone’s body for a sporting contest.”
Members of the Four Host First Nations met with the pair last week and talked with them about cultural sensitivity, then gave them wool blankets with Coast Salish designs. The pair displayed those blankets after skating the compulsory portion of the competition a couple of nights ago, draping them over their shoulders as they awaited their winning scores.