Two Russian world figure skating champions have outraged Aboriginal leaders with a ‘very offensive’ routine.
Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin won gold after wowing judges with the performance at their national competition three weeks ago.
They now intend to repeat it at next month’s Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, where they are favourites to win.
Favourites: Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalinare tipped to win next month
The routine sees Domnina, 25, and Shabalin, 27, dressed in dark-toned bodysuits decorated with eucalyptus-style leaves and traditional painted swirls and red loincloths.
It includes ceremonial dance steps – which they learned after watching video clips on the internet.
However, Aboriginal leaders in Australia are outraged, and have said the performance is disrespectful of their culture.
Sol Bellear, of the New South Wales state Aboriginal Land Council, said: ‘We see it as stealing Aboriginal culture, and it is yet another example of the Aboriginal people of Australia being exploited.
'Offensive': Aboriginal leaders claim the couple's routine has been 'stolen'
‘It's been absolutely stolen without our permission and without consultation of the relevant dance groups within Aboriginal Australia.’
Domnina and Shabalin - world champions in 2009 and European champions in 2008 and three-time Russian national champions – have also been accused of copying the idea from rival skaters, Australians Danielle O’Brien and Greg Merriman.
O’Brien and Merriman spent a year in consultation with the indigenous community to ensure their routine, performed in Korea in 2008, respected Aboriginal culture.
However, Domnina admitted to ice skating website Golden Skate, the pair’s research was less extensive.
Research: Domnina said they watched internet clips to get ideas for the dance
‘We’ve watched video clips on the internet, and it really is like this, complete with the leaves around the knees,’ she said.
Domnina defended the routine’s originality, saying they came up with the routine after deciding to do something different.
She said: ‘We did not want to create another Slavic dance and have considered a lot of options, including Scottish folk.
‘Eventually we settled on this one. I thought it was just crazy, but once we tried it, we immediately fell in love with it.’
'Disrespectful': Domnina and Shabalin have been accused of 'cultural theft'
Mr Bellear, whose organisation aims to protect the interests and aspirations of Aboriginals in Australia, told The Age: ‘It’s important for people to tread carefully and respectfully when they are depicting somebody else’s culture and I don’t think this performance does.’
He said would be writing to Russia's ambassador in Canberra to protest about the dance.
‘It may be very offensive to an Aboriginal group. It may be that they have based this on a ceremony that is strictly for men or strictly for women, and these are important things," he said.
‘It's not just intellectual property. It's straight-out cultural theft.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1245269/Russian-skating-champions-outrage-Aboriginal-leaders-offensive-routine-learned-internet-videos.html#ixzz0dP0kmG4s