Ice dancers Domnina and Shabalin lead at European Championships after original dance

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Domnina-Shabalin lead after original dance

TALLINN, Estonia — Ice dancers Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin held their lead at the European Figure Skating Championships with an original dance to Australian aboriginal music that pushed the boundaries of the discipline.

The program has also sparked controversy since its debut three weeks ago in St. Petersburg, Russia. Australian media on Thursday cited aboriginal leaders as complaining that the routine contained inauthentic steps and gaudy costumes.

The original dance theme at the European Championships is described as a “folk/country dance,” but it doesn’t have to be native to the skaters; about 20 percent of the couples chose dances from cultures other than their own.

In light of that, Domnina suggested “every country should make such a statement of complaint”. She said she hadn’t heard about the controversy and appeared amused when informed of it.

Shabalin later said that although neither of them have been to Australia, they aimed for authenticity by doing research on the internet.

Whatever its sociological implications, the program expands ice dancing’s possibilities as vividly as the all-drums routine done a decade ago by Angelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov.

The music — a keening voice, rattling percussion and a digeridoo — has almost nothing recognizable to Westerners as a melody or time signature. The audience at Saku Suurhall appeared perplexed and hesitant throughout much of the program, but cheered at the conclusion.

The judges also gave the program content high marks — two points more than segment winners Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy, who incrementally beat the Russians with higher technical marks.

The Italians, who are second overall, took a more traditional approach. They skated to a native tarantella and incorporating moves characteristic of various regions.

“It’s really, really cool for us to bring this deeply folkloric stuff to the ice,” Scali said.

Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski of Russia were third. Free dance, the final ice dancing segment, takes place Friday night.

The men’s free skate, featuring Russian Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko, is scheduled for later Thursday. France’s Brian Joubert is second and Yannick Ponsero third.

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