Controversy in Russia over Holocaust ice dance routine

Episode based on ‘Life is Beautiful’ was performed by Navka, an Olympic gold medallist

Image Credit: AFP
This file photo taken on October 21, 2015 shows former figure skater Olympic champion Tatiana Navka attending the World Olympians Forum in Moscow. The wife of President Vladimir Putin's spokesman faced a storm of criticism on November 28 for performing a Holocaust-themed ice-dancing routine with striped costumes based on concentration camp uniforms.
Gulf News

Moscow: An Olympic ice-dancing gold medallist and her on-ice partner have caused controversy by dressing up in concentration camp uniforms for a dance routine on a popular television show.

Tatiana Navka, who is the wife of Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, and dancing partner Andrei Burkovsky, appeared in Saturday’s episode of ‘Ice Age’ dressed in striped uniforms bearing yellow six-pointed stars and heavily made-up to look bruised and frail.

Their routine, which aired on state-owned Channel One, was based on ‘Life is Beautiful’, the Academy Award-winning Italian movie about a Jewish father who pretends for the sake of his small son that their internment in a Nazi camp is just a game.

Navka’s Instagram account soon was flooded with indignant comments.

Navka, 41, who won gold in ice dancing for Russia at the 2006 Turin Olympics, and Burkovsky, a 33-year-old theatre actor, told Russian media on Sunday that it was their way of paying homage to Holocaust victims.

Their dance sparked outrage in Israel.

“Motifs from the Holocaust are not for parties, not for dance and not for reality [TV],” Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev told Israeli Army Radio on Sunday.

“Not one of the 6 million danced and a concentration camp is not a summer camp,” Regev added, referring to the number of Jewish dead.

Peskov told reporters on Monday that his wife’s dance routine is not something for the Kremlin to comment on, but said: “I’m proud of my wife. This is all I can say.”

While some Russians were indignant at what some saw as mockery of the memory of the dead, others posted messages of support on Navka’s Instagram account, saying that the dance brought tears to their eyes.

The routine was choreographed by 2002 Olympic silver medallist Ilya Averbukh, who is Jewish.

Averbukh, who said in a 2012 interview that he “had problems” in his childhood because of his Jewish name, stood by the Holocaust-themed dance.

“This routine is my idea,” Averbukh, who is also Ice Age’s chief producer, told Komsomolskaya Pravda on Sunday. “I have done a lot of routines on the war and Jewish themes.”

Senior Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have honoured Holocaust victims and have spoken out against attempts to justify the crimes of Nazis or their allies.

The Holocaust-themed routines aren’t new to sports.

In 1996, France’s synchronised swimming team had to scrap its programme, which depicted the arrival of Jewish women in death camps and their final march to the gas chambers, following an intervention by the French sports minister. The routine was also based on a movie and set to music from Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List.”

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