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Aboriginal routine 'deeply offensive' -- and rubbish

A pair of Russian ice dancers who performed their routine dressed as Australian Aboriginals have infuriated British Columbia natives. It was also deemed to be rubbish by most expert commentators.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip called Sunday's dance by Maxim Shabalin and Oksana Domnina "deeply offensive," not just for its costumes and fake tribal drum music, but also the feigned violence toward the female dancer.

Phillip, chairman of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, said: "This unfortunate dance (pair) has disrespectfully exploited indigenous culture in previous performances, but I'm absolutely disappointed they appear to have breached an agreement not to do so again."

The pair, who also drew criticism at the recent European championships, met last Friday with Four Host First Nations CEO Tewanee Joseph to discuss their routine. "They said that their intent was to pay respect," said Joseph, who said the dance appears to stem from "lack of knowledge" rather than "malice."


"In the future, it should be clear there must be face-to-face consultation if indigenous culture is incorporated into Olympic events."

For the first time First Nations are co-hosts of the Olympics. The pair promised to talk to Australian Aboriginal leaders, Joseph added. The Russians were given valuable Salish woven blankets, which they draped over themselves while waiting for the judges' verdict Sunday.

During their routine in Vancouver, the pair toned down the fake brown body colour and streaks of paint, and the faux foliage stuffed into their loincloths seemed to feature West Coast ferns rather than Australian gum.

They came in third despite most TV commentators' critiques of the Russians' "cartoonish" costumes and the "ludicrous" imitation of tribal drums.