2010 Olympic ice dancing action continued tonight with the second of three rounds, the original dance. The season’s assigned theme of country or folk dance inspired competitors to don cowboy boots, jeans, hats, and other creative — and in at least one case, potentially offense — garb.
At the close the evening, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir led the rest of the field with a total score of 111.15. Reigning US Champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White continued their march toward the medal podium with a second place overall mark of 108.55, 1.95 more than reigning World Champs Oksana Domnina and Maksim Shabalin, who sit in third going into tomorrow night’s free dance.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were, in a word, amazing. Their high-scoring free dance, a flamenco, was fast, complex, and at times, breathtaking and fiery-hot. They skated with more passion than any other pair in the competition, with almost palpable emotion oozing from nearly every second of the performance. In a post-skate interview, Moir told the NBC commentator “we want to skate for our people”. And skate for Canada they did.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Virtue-Moir’s friends and training partners, also delivered a solid free dance in the form of their already wildly popular Bollywood-inspired dance. They rocked their costumes and rocked their skate; a series of quick steps and intricate moves coupled with speed, speed, speed moved them solidly into second behind Virtue-Moir.
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, 2006 Torino silver medalists and reigning US ice dancing medalists, sparkled during their Moldovian folk dance, but didn’t shine as brightly as they are wont to do. They were excellent, and likely better than their current fourth place ranking indicates, but there was something missing from the dance; it was almost as if they were tired and didn’t dance from their hearts. There is, of course, a chance for them to leap onto the medal podium with tomorrow’s free dance, but for that to happen, judges have to behave.
Now here’s where the controversy lies. Russian pair Oksana Domnina and Maksim Shabalin donned Aboriginal garb and skated an odd, disjointed and strangely offensive routine. Criticism of this dance is nothing new; the duo met with Canadian Four Host First Nations when they arrived for the Olympic ice dancing competition and seemed to make nice. But even as a plain Jane caucasian woman, this dance rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps it was Domnina’s dopey facial expressions that bothered me most, but the whole thing just seemed wrong. And wrong in a disturbing way, given the elegant performance they gave in the compulsory round.
The scores for Domnina-Shabalin tonight seemed too high. How they managed to outscore Belbin-Agosto in a battle of original dances is just beyond me. After all, Domnina-Shabalin are technicians, and they excel in compulsory round action, not interpretive or expressive dances. Could inflated Olympic ice dancing scores for a Russian team have anything to do with Evgeni Plushenko’s failure to defend his title in men’s figure skating? There is, after all, almost always controversy when it comes to figure skating, so musing on the subject isn’t an unreasonable thing to do.
2010 Olympic ice dancing competition concludes tomorrow evening during NBC Primetime Olympic coverage. Will gold go to Virtue-Moir? Davis-White? Belbin-Agosto? If it goes to Domnina-Shabalin, will the whispers of judging controversy ever go away?
Olympic Ice Dancing Original Dance Coverage, NBC