Why figure skaters are drawn to Schindler's List music

Yulia Lipnitskaia

Figure skater Yulia Lipnitskaya used music from Schindler's List in her gold-medal-winning routine, writes Ben Milne. Was she guilty of bad taste?

The 15-year-old has won gold at Sochi, with her interpretation of the score to Stephen Spielberg's famous movie about the Holocaust. It's prompted debates across social media. "Schindler's List: On Ice!" is one tweeter's ironic reaction. Another asks whether routines based on The Diary of Anne Frank will be next. Others think differently: "Absolutely flawless," writes one.

Lipnitskaya's decision to perform the routine in a red jacket attracted the most comment. Schindler's List is shot almost entirely in black-and-white but in a couple of scenes a small girl is spotted in the middle distance wearing a red coat - first in the Jewish ghetto, then later on a pile of bodies. The sight signals a quiet turning point for the hero, Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), and his mission to save his "list" of prisoners from the gas chambers.

The UK-based Russian journalist Dmitri Linnik says there is nothing wrong with the choice of music: "I don't see how it trivialises [the Holocaust] or is in bad taste," he says, adding that the same question wouldn't be asked of music from Cabaret, a musical set in Nazi Berlin.

John Williams's soundtrack of violin music (played by the Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman) has actually been popular with skaters since the film's release in 1994. Paul Wylie performed a routine to the music that year, as did the German champion Katarina Witt (who also wore red and made headlines). It's not hard to see why dancers love the score - Williams spares no effort in attempting to match the sadness of the film with the tempo of his music, and its romantic melancholy lends itself perfectly to the dramatics of an ice dance.

It's an opinion that the judges at Sochi obviously share. However, the music has not always been an Olympic winner. In Atlanta 1996, the French synchronised swimming team proposed a Holocaust-themed routine to the same soundtrack, beginning with the nose-clipped swimmers goose-stepping into the pool. The plan was quietly abandoned before the Games - probably wisely.

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