Sorry, Free People, Your Ballet Ads Are Not Convincing


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:

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.

Free People on YouTube

Images: Free People