The Jewish choreographer of a Holocaust-themed ice skating routine that aired on a popular Russian television show over the weekend defended the controversial performance against a storm of criticism.
Ilya Averbukh on Monday told the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid the routine, in which the skaters donned striped concentration camp uniforms complete with yellow stars of David, was his own idea.
“I have done a lot of routines on the war and Jewish themes, there were very different characters,” the 2002 Olympic silver medalist said. “This routine is my idea.”
Averbukh, who said in a 2012 interview that he “had problems” in his childhood because of his Jewish name, said the outrage over the performance was unwarranted.
“I would call all this reaction a sign of the craziness of today,” he angrily told the tabloid.
The routine performed by Tatiana Navka, the wife of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, on Saturday’s episode of the prime-time celebrity skating show “Ice Age,” drew a wave of condemnation in Russia, Israel and in international media.
Navka performed the pirouetting routine with actor Andrei Burkovsky set to a song from 1997 Oscar-winning Holocaust film “Life is Beautiful.”
The pair wore black-and-white striped outfits with numbers and yellow stars for the routine, which ends to the sound of gunfire.
“Have you gone mad? Smiles in prison uniforms with yellow stars! The audience erupting in applause… No taste, no, tact, no understanding,” wrote viewer Mihael Ratinsky on the Channel One website.
“This is terrible, people don’t understand what they are doing. This is blasphemy,” wrote another viewer, Viki Reznik, in a comment to a YouTube video of the routine that had been viewed more than 37,000 times on Monday, to mostly negative reactions.
Britain’s the Daily Mail wrote that the dancers’ “beaming grins” seemed to have “little in connection with their gruesome theme,” while US People magazine’s site called it “troubling.”
The Nazis killed some 10 million Soviet civilians and prisoners of war, some 1.3 million of whom were Jewish, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
That head of the Moscow-based Holocaust Fund, Alla Gerber, told the Govorit Moskva radio station it was “very complex” to depict the Holocaust appropriately.
“Primarily I think there must not be mockery, there must not be irony, there must not be a crooked smile,” she said.
The performance also sparked also outrage in Israel.
“Motifs from the Holocaust are not for parties, not for dance and not for reality (TV),” Culture Minister Miri Regev told Army Radio Sunday.
“Not one of the 6 million danced and a concentration camp is not a summer camp,” Regev added, referring to number of Jews killed by Nazi Germany.
Navka and Burkovsky’s routine won the pair maximum points on the show and praise from judges.
On Instagram, Navka posted that it was one of her “favorite routines,” and “our children should know and remember this terrible time.”
She and Burkovsky told Russian media on Sunday that it was their way of paying homage to Holocaust victims.