genocide on ice!!

by tobybee

Somehow I missed this, but thanks to a friend’s posting on facebook, I found out that, for their freestyle dance, the Israeli ice-dancing team at the Winter Olympics skated to the music from Schindler’s List. Here’s some information about the dance from an article in the Jerusalem Post:

Twenty-seven members of Roman and Alexandra Zaretsky’s family died in World War II, a heritage the siblings share along with their passion for ice dancing and pursuit of Olympic glory.

When they take to the ice representing Israel in three programs starting Friday night, the Zaretskys will pay tribute to that family history. Their marquee performance, the free skate Monday evening, is set to the music of Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning movie about the Holocaust.

In doing so, they are sending a message about the importance of remembrance and a significant chapter in their family’s and country’s past, in a venue most pairs will use to focus the audience’s attention squarely on the present.

“We grew up with this every year, the memory of Yom Hashoah [Holocaust Remembrance Day],” Roman Zaretsky said Thursday of the reflection on what befell their family in Minsk, Belarus, from which they made aliya in the 1990s. “It’s very important to us.”

Alexandra Zaretsky said they were also drawn by the emotive power of the piece and the opportunity to convey that to the audience through ice dancing.

“We felt that we loved this piece and that we could do it the way it needs to be done,” she explained.

Still, those same qualities make it a difficult routine to practice – and live with – day in and day out.

“It very hard to skate every day to this music,” Roman Zaretsky said of the emotional toll.

“You’re feeling it, and you’re always getting the picture of the movie” in your head, his sister noted. “It’s hard, but it’s a good, strong piece.”

The money line for me is the first one: that the routine combines their loss of family in the Holocaust with their passion for ice-skating and their desire for an Olympic medal. There’s a certain crassness there that is astounding I think. I don’t have a problem with dance as a means of expressing the loss caused by genocide. I don’t really understand dance, so it’s not a mode that I personally use, but I appreciate that for some people, dance can be a means of ‘working through’ the trauma. And, really, ice-skating is just another form of dance. But it’s when it’s made into a competitive dance, when the purpose of the dance is the pursuit of an Olympic medal – with all the consumption, nationalism, and heteronormativity (partner ice-dancing requires the performance of compulsory heterosexuality, even when the skaters are siblings) which that entails (i.e., some of the formulations in society that provided the ground for the Holocaust) – that it becomes troublesome. Plus, I can’t help but feel that it’s making the after-effects of the Holocaust a bit banal.

Anyways, if you want to check out the routine, here it is from the European Championships from earlier this year (with bonus Russian commentary!)