What does it take to become an Olympic Ice Dancer? Talent? Resources? 10,000 hours?
How about a Russian…
Statistically, the Slavic folk make a big difference. But, it’s not the athletes; it’s the coaches.
If you got a medal in Ice Dancing during one of the past 10 Olympic games (besides: Congratulations!) there is an 83 % chance that you have had some Russian coaching along the way. Yes, five out of every six Olympic medals have probably been toasted with some vodka.
Um. We have prescription medications that have a lower rate of success. Dr Russky MD anyone?
So, what’s Russia got to do with it?
In broad-strokes, this Russian dance dominance can be traced back to the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg and later the Ballet Russes. Since the early 20th century, Russia has been has been on the forefront of dance both innovating it by celebrating the male and choreographing specifically to music, and by codifying it as part of a cultural identity. Unlike the prejudicial homoerotic sexual undertones of a westernized take of dance presently, Russians welcomed dance as a national identity and cultural imperative. This acceptance, paired with a Stalin initiative to demonstrate Soviet dominance through athletic success (more on this to come!) created a fertile environment to breed athletes with fortitude and ‘danceability.’ And, these nimble, stoic athletes retired to become the coaches of today.
And, then the USSR collapsed.
(North) America f*ck yeah! These brown bread, caviar, and vodka blooded Slavic coaches may have immigrated to work and prosper in a new homeland (Congratulations US and Canada!: Belbin / Agosto, Davis / White, Virtue / Moir, and all those Russians training in land of the brave…), but they still teach as a Russian. And, Russian in this case means: Dance, musicality, and deeply believing that success as an ice dancer matters.