Russian ice dancers stage folk dancing cover-up

VANCOUVER Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:00am EST

1 of 2. Russia's Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin perform during the ice dance original dance figure skating event at the Vancouver Winter Olympics February 21, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin added a few leaves to their infamous aboriginal themed costumes on Sunday but nothing could cover up the fact that folk dances could never be totally authentic on ice.

The world champions were accused by Australian Aboriginal elders last month of "cultural theft" in a routine where they wore dark body suits with white swirling patterns and performed ceremonial steps.

They dumped the patterns in favor of strokes of white paint, wore lighter suits, added some more eucalyptus leaves and did not paint their faces when they performed the original dance at the Olympics on Sunday after consulting experts.

"We did it more authentic and less theatrical. There are more leaves and fewer pictures," Shabalin, still sporting a red loin cloth, told reporters.

"It can't be 100 percent authentic because it's the ice and we have a lot of restriction in our costumes. I understand that they don't dance in pants ... but we are skating on the ice."

It remains to be seen how their costumes will be received by those who complained but there were plenty of other outfits on show that could get into trouble with the fashion police.

Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev wore matching blue and white naval uniforms for their Russian folk dance, with the only clue that Bobrova was female coming at the end when she let a cascade of long blonde hair out from under her cap.

China's Huang Xintong and Zheng Xun created the opposite effect, with the bottom of his flimsy turquoise top flowing around him like a skirt when he spun in their Greek folk dance.

There were fishnet tights, cowboy hats, jeans, suede chaps, a hula skirt, kimonos and pink petticoats as skaters did their best to get into character.

"A costume should just emphasize what you are trying to show on the ice," British ice dancer John Kerr told Reuters.

Even if they tried with their costumes, it was sometimes the dance that fell short in the authenticity stakes.

Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White, wearing an eye-catching ghagra choli and sherwani suit, brought the crowd to their feet with what they called an Indian folk dance, only their footwork was more Bollywood than traditional dance.

(Editing by Jon Bramley)