Not a season goes by without a Schindler or two at the elite level. We've seen them from ladies and men, in ice dance and in pairs. But unlike true skating warhorses, which are at worst repetitive and boring, a bad Schindler's List feels like the Holocaust is being trivialized, becoming a backdrop for on-ice drama.
Of course, nobody sets out to do something so offensive. Here, for instance, is what Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri had to say about the Schindler's List free dance that they're doing this season:
Schindler's List was our first option for the free dance for the Olympic season, but then we discovered that another Italian couple, who was fighting with us for an Olympic spot at the time, had already chosen to skate to Jewish music and to represent the drama of the Holocaust. That's the reason why, in the end, we decided to select another piece (Romeo and Juliet) with a story of struggle but one that was completely different from that one.
The reason why we had such a strong will to represent this drama is because, although many years have passed since those events, they are still deeply felt by us. Our grandparents lived through World War II and told us many stories about that period, about the fears, about the sufferings…and our choreographer, Corrado Giordani, is from Trieste, Italy, a city where [the Nazi concentration camp Risiera di San Sabba] is located and where you can still see many signs of the pain left by the war.
Guignard and Fabbri are very capable ice dancers, and I find their short dance quite enjoyable. But their free dance for me is a failure, and I think this interview gives some insight as to why. The Holocaust is not a drama. It is not a struggle that is conceptually similar to Romeo and Juliet. What your relatives experienced is not what the people whose story is depicted in Schindler's List went through.
This is not just about Guignard and Fabbri's program, much as I dislike it. It is also not to say that a Schindler's List program categorically cannot work. Israeli skaters have managed it, and I found Julia Lipnitskaya's version quite decent as well. But this is a subject that calls for a careful approach, and not everyone can manage it.
One of the better takes on Schindler's List
I'm not in a position to tell skaters what to do, and besides, I doubt any will be reading this. But I wish people would think more about what those programs can and should convey. If you choose to skate to Schindler's List, be thoughtful, subtle, and respectful of the memory of those you try to represent in your skating. If you can't do that, consider a fictional tragedy instead.