While I love all Olympic sports, I have to admit that ever since I was a little girl, I've loved figure skating (yeah, shocker). However, I've never really succumbed to the allure of ice dancing. It's to figure skating what trampolining is to gymnastics. It's sort of in the same family of sport, but doesn't seem quite as challenging (not that I could do any of the aforementioned without breaking my neck). Nevertheless, I've ended up watching a lot of it this week because the network executives seem to think that it merits a lion's share of primetime real estate. And while I'm sure it has its fans, I'd much rather be watching luge or any of the eight other sports that barely get covered.
Anyway, last night's original dance competition (which seemed endless) featured the pairs performing dances that were supposedly spotlight a "flavor" of a particular country. Not necessarily their own country, but any country. That's how we ended up with the debacle (seriously, you need to see it to believe it) of the Russian team dancing to Australian Aboriginal music in costumes that offended Aboriginal leaders and horrified innocent onlookers.
I had two big problems with this ice dance. First, Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin have done this routine in competition before and "toned down" their costumes (though to me, the costumes alone aren't as egregious as some of their dance moves). If the network execs knew it could potentially offend people and were worried about backlash, why did they decide to air it? Or why not at least put up some sort of warning or disclaimer? The play-by-play announcers did mention how the skaters had changed up their looks slightly, and one announcer seemed unimpressed by the technicality of their routine, but if announcers in Canada can get away with saying Johnny Weir should be should be tested to make sure he isn't a woman because he wore a costume with pink ribbons, surely other announcers around the world have some leeway to be a little more critical of a team whose dance includes Oksana being dragged around by her hair and patting her hand over her mouth like a racist stereotype of a Native American (perhaps she got her continents confused?). More importantly, why didn't their coaches tell them that this was a bad idea? Was it simply a desperate cry for attention? If so, mission accomplished.
Secondly, theirs wasn't the only dance that served to offend. Sure their routine was the most blatant, but this assignment basically lent itself to routines that would rub someone in the world the wrong way, whether it was the British team taking on line-dancing to a Johnny Cash song (tramp stamp and Daisy Dukes included), or the American team performing a Moldavian folk dance and a Bollywood-style Indian number. I'm no expert, but didn't it occur to Charlie White and Meryl Davis that a portion of one or both of those cultures could potentially be turned off by their dance, beautiful to watch or not? In general, there was the tendency here to go for the obvious (and potentially hurtful). And I'm not saying that teams should never stray from their own cultures, but if a pair other than the Israelis had danced to "Hava Nagila," I might have been a little bit put off, especially if they hadn't done the necessary research. But really, why not just challenge the teams to represent their own countries; after all, isn't that what the Olympics are all about?
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