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    Julia Lipnitskaia, Sochi Olympics: Why do figure skaters love skating to the theme from Schindlers List?

    the star of saturday’s team figure skating session was undoubtedly julia lipnitskaia, a young russian who thrilled the audience with her short program. “The diminutive 15-year-old Russian figure skater has positioned herself to become the favorite at the Sochi Games,” wrote Kevin Kaduk on the Yahoo Olympics blog. “Russian teen prodigy figure skating performance was unbelievably amazing,” read the headline of a buzzfeed article praising lipnitskaia for a “beautiful, near-perfect routine that left us speechless.” NBC commentator Johnny Weir called Lipnitskaia “a wild hybrid of Sasha Cohen and Tara Lipinski,” whatever that means. And Lipinski herself, also an NBC commentator, said that Lipnitskaia had a great chance to win the gold medal.

    well i can’t wait to see what weir and lipinski have to say about lipnitskaia once the women’s singles competition starts. According to the New York Times, the Russian teenager’s “signature piece,” one she will likely perform in the Olympic Long Program, is set to the John Williams theme from Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Holocaust drama Schindler’s List. But that’s not all: the routine features Lipnitskaia skating as the film’s iconic “girl in the red coat,” a young Polish Jewish girl who is killed by Nazi soldiers.

    Reading: Julia lipnitskaia off ice

    I think I speak for all of us when I say, “Finally, someone has adapted the saddest scene from a holocaust movie into a figure skating stunt routine.” No? just me? anyone else?

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    In case you haven’t seen Schindler’s List in a while, it tells the story of a German industrialist who, by employing Jews in his factories, saved them from almost certain death at the hands of the Nazis. In the film, the “girl in the red robe,” a rare splash of color in the black-and-white film, is first seen during the violent liquidation of the Jewish ghetto in Krakow. Later, Oskar Schindler finds the girl’s body and, overcome with guilt and remorse, decides to act.

    here is a clip from the girl’s first appearance in the movie:

    and here’s lipnitskaia’s “red coat” routine from the 2014 european figure skating championships:

    Surprisingly, there is a long history of top figure skaters incorporating motifs from Schindler’s List into their routines. From Katarina Witt to Irina Slutskaya and Johnny Weir himself, many great skaters have performed routines set to the theme of Schindler’s List. these programs are not always well received. As a recent post on the morozombie figure skating blog put it, it is perhaps best to be “cautious about attempts to portray the evils of the holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people on ice.”

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    and yet skaters keep skating all the way to schindler’s list. why does something that seems so vulgar hit the figure skating community as the best idea? where is the disconnect?

    figure skating doesn’t reward subtlety. young women slather themselves in makeup, cover themselves with sequins and put on big smiles to earn high marks from the judges. his musical selections also do not emphasize restraint. As that Morozombie blog post points out, the theme of Schindler’s List represents “a convenient opportunity to dress in somber colours, use various over-the-top dramatic gimmicks, and make overly melodramatic and agonized faces.” when skaters play sad, they play really sad.

    Of course, spielberg’s use of the girl in the red coat has been criticized as cloying, one of spielberg’s film’s “overly sentimental tropes,” in the words of the entertainment weekly. Schindler’s List on Ice makes sense, then, in a perverse way: it’s the marriage of a sport that demands hyper-emotionalism and a movie that delivers it more than any other in modern times.

    In the end, it all comes down to execution. Lipnitskaia’s Schindler’s List show, choreographed by Ilia Averbukh, a former Olympic ice-dancing medalist and Russian Jew, is better than most. blog morozombie noted that “when she skates like the girl in the red coat on schindler’s list, miss lipnitskaia’s flaws become virtues that just work,” while usa today called lipnitskaia’s routine “spectacular but respectful.” . The 15-year-old Russian figure skater is so beautiful and graceful on the ice that she ends up transcending material that she probably has no right to wear in the first place.

    Read the rest of the Sochi Olympics slate coverage.

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