The Orient on Ice: Transnational Cultural Portrayals by Asian and Asian American Figure Skaters

  • John B. Weinstein


In the 1990s, Chinese and Chinese-American competitors in ladies’ figure skating used Oriental cultural elements in their winning World Championship programs. The cultures reflected were drawn from multiple regions within those considered the “Orient,” both Near Eastern, in the European conception, and Far Eastern, in the American conception. Although always a transnational performance form, figure skating has, from the 1980s onward, expanded from Euro American cultural dominance into greater prevalence among Asian countries and Asian American skaters within the US. This did not initially lead to greater presence of non-Western cultures in figure skating performances, until 1995 World Champion Chen Lu of China and 1996 World Champion Michelle Kwan of the US engaged in cultural portrayals beyond pure Euro American movement and visuality. Their choreography, however, drew much from Oriental performance already mediated by Western dance forms, and their performances were only “in character” within limits, in performances still dominated by technical elements.


China Figure skating Performance Orientalism 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John B. Weinstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Bard CollegeAnnandale-on-HudsonUSA

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