The internet, in all its unreal glory, giveth a convergence of topics against which I feel utterly powerless: the Holocaust, and ice dancing.
Mention even one of these things, no matter how tangentially, and you’re guaranteed a click. Which is why my husband must have thought we hit the double jackpot when he yelled at me from his computer this weekend: “Hey! Have I got something for you! It’s amazing, you’ll love it.”
And I did.
You see, it seems that Tatiana Navka, wife of Vladimir Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who himself was recently in New York to take in the World Chess Championship, recently performed a Holocaust-themed ice dance on a Russian reality skating show called Ice Age. She and her partner dressed in concentration camp uniforms. They look at each other mournfully, then clown around happily on the ice, as they open up a pantomime costume chest and act out whatever it is they find inside (I couldn’t exactly tell what it was they were doing all the time; the specificity of their mime skills need some work). And they giggle until they are chased by an imaginary dog and the male skater is shot, leaving the female to remain somberly on the ice, cradling what appears to be an invisible baby. Was it amazing? Yes. Did I love it? Umm…
Interestingly, this isn’t the first foray the ice skating world has made into the fathomless horror of the Shoah. Remember Yulia Lipnitskaya, the Russian figure skater who took the 2014 Winter Olympics by storm with free skate set to the music from Schindler’s List, while dressed as the little girl in the red coat? (A case can be made for German pair skater Robin Szolkowy and Aliona Savchenko’s 2010 short program to “Send in the Clowns” as being reminiscent of Jerry Lewis’s The Day the Clown Cried but it was almost certainly unintentional and is probably dumping my own pathologies and fascinations where they don’t belong, so let’s leave it there.) Lipnitskaya, however, managed to show restraint, optioning not to festoon herself with yellow Stars of David, or covering her hair with a striped prisoner’s kerchief to make it appear as though her head had been recently and roughly shaved, so you know, there’s that. For all the things you can say about this year, which is finally limping mercifully to a close (although who knows, we could look back on this from the smoking ash heap that used to be our country a few years from now and think of it as a Golden Age), you can’t claim we didn’t push some boundaries.
Naturally, there has been social media outcry over “Auschwitz on Ice,” and all may not be quite as sinister as it seems on its face, given our understandable jumpiness around Nazi stuff right now; the performance, it seems, was intended as a tribute so the movie Life Is Beautiful, which, as you might recall, we all thought was completely adorable until we had the time to actually think about it. Maybe in another year or two we’ll look back on this moment and think: What was so upsetting about that? It was all well-intentioned. Or maybe we’ll look back and see that this was the moment when genocide once again became not only imaginable, but fodder for entertainment. Time will tell, but either way, the judges gave it a perfect score.