I haven't been paying a lot of attention to the ice dancing competition, partially because I've been busy this weekend and partially because I'm still reeling from the fallout of the men's competition. But there was controversy over the costumes and program of one Russian ice dancing team, Domnina and Shabalin. This article summarizes the controversy.
I went back and watched the performance online, and I found it deeply offensive. Shabalin was wearing a bodysuit the color of his own flesh and a loose red loincloth that flapped in the wind as he skated. Domnina had her hair in a ponytail on top of her head, which at one point Shabalin grabbed as though he were dragging her along after him. And with their white body(suit) paint and the exaggerated faces they were pulling, I felt like I was watching an old minstrel show. It was disgusting.
To be fair, NBC's online coverage of the controversy deserves its share of criticism; they have consistently reported that the team changed the color of their bodysuits from "brown" to "flesh-toned" or "flesh-colored". Um, excuse me? Flesh has more than one color. Now, it's possbile that they meant to say that the color had been changed from brown to a lighter color closer to the dancers' own skin tones, but there had to have been a better way to say that.
But it wasn't just the costumes, it was the entire attitude of the piece. I don't know enough about the native culture of Australia and/or Southeast Asia (which I don't think are necessarily related, but whatever) so I can't comment on authenticity, but I thought the general attitude of the performance was very condescending.