Meryl Davis and Charlie White are as all-American as they come. But when they stepped onto the ice at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February, they transformed themselves into a couple of Bollywood movie stars.

Davis, dressed in a costume that resembled a red sari, posed her arms, wiggled her head and shot coy glances at the crowd as well as any Bollywood dancer. White, dressed in a taupe punjabi, carried off the illusion as well – despite his tousled blonde hair – as he whirled around the arena to energetic Indian music.

The Bollywood folk dance was their “original dance” at the Olympics, and it helped them win a silver medal – as well as the hearts of America’s Indian community.

The couple, who have been together longer than any other ice-dancing partners in the history of U.S. figure skating, will bring the popular routine to the Cumberland County Civic Center at 7 p.m. Tuesday as part of Smucker’s Stars on Ice.
(To view a video of the Bollywood folk dance, go to bit.ly/a4jZZS.)

The Bollywood routine was more fun and energetic than a lot of the overly dramatic folk dance routines skaters typically choose to perform in competition. What took so long to embrace this particular style?

White says it is partly due to the lack of Indian influence in figure skating.

“So many of the coaches are Russian and European that when we end up doing these folk dances, they teach us what they know best,” he said in a phone interview. “The last time there was this folk dancing, we ended up doing a kalinka, which is Russian.”

It was the couple’s coach, Marina Zueva, who suggested doing something a little bit different so they would stand out at the national championships and the Olympics.

“We really didn’t know anything about it,” White said, “but as soon as we got in the studio with the Indian dance instructor and listened to some of the music, we just immediately fell in love with it, and we knew that it was perfect.”

Davis said there was “a lot of stomping” and other moves that didn’t necessarily translate well onto the ice, so they spent two or three months last summer learning to dance Bollywood-style off the ice so the steps wouldn’t appear awkward.

“I think that’s part of what we liked about it so much,” White said. “When you’re in a competition, you are really stressed out, and if your program can get you in the frame of mind to enjoy it a little more, that’s a great program.

“And with the Indian dance, it was just a lot of personality and a lot of fun. You can’t help but smile when you’re out on the ice. And in return, the judges are smiling at you, and the crowd is really into it, so it was a really great program.”

The couple will also be performing several other dances with the Smucker’s Stars on Ice show.

The show is produced by Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton and includes appearances by such well-known skaters as Sasha Cohen, Todd Eldredge, Yuka Sato and Michael Weiss.

After touring for two months, White and Davis will take a well-deserved break and head back to classes at the University of Michigan this fall. Davis is studying cultural anthropology and Italian, and White would like to go into law.

They’re looking forward to getting back into a normal routine, but already have their sights set on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.
“We can’t say for sure that it’s going to happen, but it’s definitely a goal of ours,” Davis said. “We’ll be starting to compete again in the fall. So after tour, we’ll take a little break and then we’ll head back to the ice to start training for next year.”

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:
[email protected]