"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
-Oscar Wilde
Brilliant at Breakfast title banner "The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
"...you have a choice: be a fighting liberal or sit quietly. I know what I am, what are you?" -- Steve Gilliard, 1964 - 2007

"For straight up monster-stomping goodness, nothing makes smoke shoot out my ears like Brilliant@Breakfast" -- Tata

"...the best bleacher bum since Pete Axthelm" -- Randy K.

"I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum." -- "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (1954-2015), They Live
Monday, February 22, 2010

It isn't just the offensive costumes, it's that they stole the program
Posted by Jill | 5:15 AM
Perhaps ice dance just shouldn't have "country/folk" as its original dance theme. In this whitest event in the whitest sport, one which has seen no end of Carmens and Scheherezades and Don Quixotes as envisioned by Russian composer Ludwig Minkus and Bravehearts and Henry V's, perhaps the folk dances of indigenous peoples are best left alone. What a strange parade of hillbillies and extras from Fiddler on the Roof and flamenco dancers that was. Did it make you as uncomfortable as it made me? Even the mournful and listless rendition of "Have Nagila", though performed by Actual Real Israelis seemed kitschy.

The only reason I don't put Meryl Davis and Charlie White's Devdas program into the same category is that it isn't some white person's broad-brush interpretation of Indian folk dance; they did it right, with an Indian choreographer -- and the program has been embraced by the experts -- the people of India:

Check the statistics on the OD videos that have been posted on YouTube, and most of the views are by people in India. The program is mentioned on several Web sites celebrating Indian culture. Some of Rajendra's own friends even got e-mails from people in India, telling them they had to check out these American ice dancers.

Like most winter sports, skating isn't very big in India. But people there were impressed — and proud — that American skaters were showcasing their culture.

"This is the new world......of globalization! I am so proud of my heritage! way to go!!," one person who watched the video on YouTube wrote.

"It makes me feel good that something Indian is being shown," said Dr. Shekar Pushpala, a doctor in Indianapolis who was sent the video by a friend in India.

By the end of October, eight or nine people had sent Usman Ahmed links to the video, urging him to post it on his "My Life is Desi" Web site, which is devoted to South Asian culture.

Perhaps it's a shame that it takes white people to bring another culture into the white mainstream, but the process with Indian culture was already underway last year when a white British director's film set in Mumbai, Slumdog Millionaire, took home an armload of Academy Awards.

But then there's Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, whose "aboriginal"-themed costumes, though toned down from early-season competitions in which the flesh-colored "illusion" was much darker, giving the whole thing an even stronger air of minstrelsy, still looked like something that would be right at home in one of those racially-broad 1940's Warner Bros. cartoons.

Here's their program, and the pre-uproar costumes, from an earlier competition:

Give them credit for doing something really, really different, but I think the same effect could have been achieved with makeup and less minstrely costumes. Still, while I was watching the program, I couldn't help but have the sense that I'd seen this program before -- or something very, very similar. And indeed, we did -- in 1988. It was Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay, but it was their Christopher Dean-choreographed program, not their costumes, that created the uproar.

Here's the Duchesnays' program from the 1988 World Championships.

You decide.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
Anonymous Anonymous said...
We could not watch that program as soon as they came out to skate. We went back to hockey.

Are you sure that cross-country skiing isn't whiter than figure skating?

Anonymous mandt said...
"Even the mournful and listless rendition of "Have Nagila", though performed by Actual Real Israelis seemed kitschy." So true! I couldn't stop thinking, "Oii toys."

Anonymous Anonymous said...
i am so glad you brought up the Duchesnays / i remember them well and especially the dance you show here / in my mind the '84 and '88 winter games had the most spectacular skating / i loved Torvill and Dean, Kararina Witt, the battling Brians / i have not followed the Vancouver games nor did i see the games in Turin / i did see the costumes of the Russian dancers and for the first time in my life i knew what the word Dorky meant / yes, Paul and Isabel were remarkable skaters / i believe she married Christopher Dean for a while

i actually dont follow figure skating competitions anymore / when i was 63 i fulfilled life long dream (every since my first Sonia Henie movie) to take skating lessons / this led to my second ambition born during lesson time to be a senior citizen skate guard at the rink where i took my lessons / i followed my dream / skating with all the kids and others of all ages like an elderly gent skating for the first time since his knee replacement somehow diluted the dazzle of the celebrity skaters

Katherine (aka Skaterina)

Blogger Jill said...
Hey, Katherine -- good for you! I took some lessons when I was 38. I could not do crossovers to the right to save my life...and that was the end of my skating career. :-)

Blogger kat said...
Hm....I'm not sure I'd say "stole." "Caricatured" feels more like it, to me.

It's hard for me to tell on the video of the Duchesneys, but it seems that they actually took their program, and their skating seriously, rather than mugging and making faces and friggin' RUBBING THEIR NOSES TOGETHER!!!

(attempts to settle down and not fly into a squealing rant....sigh...breathe.....ok)

I'm glad that I wasn't the only one to think of minstrel shows when I watched the original dance.