Maybe They Should've Hired a Real Ballerina?

Oh Free People — you tried. You really tried to make the FP Movement Ballet ad campaign a success. You even filmed a video! But there's just one little, tiny problem. You didn't use a real ballet dancer as a model. And it's painfully obvious.

FP Movement Ballet started innocently enough with a line of gauzy wrap tops and ruffled sweatpants suitable for draping over leotards. The ad campaign, however, is a disaster. Instead of hiring a trained ballet dancer, Free People chose a pretty model who they tried to pass off as a trained ballet dancer. Not only is this insulting to the leagues of people who devote their entire lives to the art of ballet (or at least to those of us with a trained eye for technique), it's also dangerous.

I've been a dancer for many years, and though I focus more on modern these days, I studied ballet for over fifteen years. This included a four year stint en pointe. I was never an amazing ballerina, but I know the difference between proper and improper technique (plus, relate to these 51 other things only a true ballet dancer would understand.) The model/dancer in the Free People advertisements looks the part — until you put her in pointe shoes. Then, she looks like she's about to break her ankles, a very real possibility when you prance around in pointe shoes without formal instruction.

In this image, the model is precariously balanced on her toes. Her feet are sickled and her ankles are not supporting the rest of her body, forcing her pelvis to tuck forward in an effort to hold her in place. An image like this is not only offensive to the hard-working dance community, but is very unsafe for the model. I'm cringing in pain just looking at her feet.

The video accompanying the campaign is equally irresponsible. Although a voiceover implies the model has been dancing since she was three years old, that does not appear to be the case. She flails around, clad in FP Movement Ballet clothing, while classical music plays. Occasionally, she hops up onto the toes of her pointe shoes with similarly sloppy technique as displayed in the image above.

Dancers have taken to social media to express their dismay over the Free People campaign. One customer posted the following message on the Free People Facebook page:

Hi Free People. Just another dancer here to express her utter dismay at your irresponsible and dangerous dancewear video and photos. It is very clear that you not only failed to cast dancers for a shoot that required them, but that you failed to do your homework when it comes to what’s safe and what’s not for amateurs. I respectfully ask that you apologize to your models for putting them in danger and to the dance community for offending our art form, and that you reconsider this marketing campaign. Thank you.
Has she been TRAINED????? Her feet are TERRIBLE, her lines are TERRIBLE… I could go on. This is OFFENSIVE to dancers out there. You went and decided to cast some local “ballet dancer” because she had your look. Shame on you, there are plenty of professionals out there that would have looked stunning in this.
it’s so obvious that she hasn’t been dancing since three.. I doubt she’s even trained for a year. I’m cringing, and I’m sure dancers all around the world are too. Why couldn’t you just hire an actual dancer? They needn’t be professional, there’s tons of amazing talented ballet students from schools like School of American Ballet, The Rock School, San Francisco Ballet school.. it’s beyond me how you think it’s okay to put someone who has no strength in her ankles or technique in pointe shoes when she can break bones, lose toenails, and develop malformations for the sake of a shitty ad.

These may seem like petty gripes to those outside of the dance community, but this ad sends a dangerous message to young girls not developed or trained enough to try pointe. This is a gross misrepresentation of an important art form, a misrepresentation that could have been avoided with a different casting decision. Free People would be well-advised to take a page from Under Armour's book. The athletic brand recently signed Misty Copeland, a member of American Ballet Theater, resulting in a series of gorgeous, ballet-positive ads that contrast sharply with Free People schlocky interpretation.

Check out the video below. I can guarantee that you won't be inspired to run out and purchase a pair of Vintage Painted Ballet Slippers for $148 from Free People. At least the company had the good sense to put a "don't dance in these" disclaimer in the product description.

Images: Free People