Ice dance sparks Aboriginal anger

Indigenous Australians label Russian figure skating routine as "offensive".

    Despite a warm reception from its audience, an "Aboriginal" dance routine by two Russian skaters has earned icy words from indigenous Australian elders.

    Sol Bellear, of the New South Wales state Aboriginal Land Council, said the dance by Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, was "offensive".

    The world champions wore dark-skin bodysuits adorned with leaves and white bodypaint markings when they performed their routine at the European figure skating championships in Estonia on Thursday.

    Bellear said: "It's very offensive. We see it as stealing Aboriginal culture and it is yet another example of the Aboriginal people of Australia being exploited."

    But the skating duo said they were surprised to learn that they had caused cultural offence.

    Cultural inspiration

    Shabalin said the performance had never been intended to be an authentic Aboriginal dance.

    "We researched a lot of information on the internet. It's just from many thousands of years ago and it wasn't our goal [to be authentic]," he said.

    The theme for the original dance section of the competition was "folk/country dance" and Domnina said their routine had, like those of other skaters, drawn inspiration from other countries or cultures.

    After being told that Bellear would be writing to Russia's ambassador in Canberra to protest about the dance, Domnina responded: "Every country should be writing to complain in that case!"

    The Russians drew no complaints from fans who waved their flags after Thursday's dance, or from the judges who made no deductions.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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