Why a Free People ad has dancers in a tizzy

The dancing world is in an uproar over an ad from Free People that they say falls flat on its face by using an apparently untrained ballet dancer.

The spot features a young woman in pointe shoes who talks about her love of dancing, but whose technique falls far short. While those untrained in ballet won't be able to tell her plies from arabesques, dancers are taking to Facebook and YouTube to protest the inauthenticity.

"This ad is such a slap in the face to trained dancers everywhere," wrote Dancentre South on Facebook. "I cringed watching her awful technique (obviously untrained or beginner at best) and hopefully she didn't get injured during filming as she has no business in pointe shoes. Shame on you!"

Free People didn't immediately return a request for comment.

Outraged dancers also expressed concern for the model, noting that her apparent lack of technique could lead to injuries. One former pro dancer told AdWeek that her body position was "super dangerous. Her foot is sickled. Her ankles are not supporting her body and her position well." Her clothing also came in for ridicule, with one person noting, "No respectable ballet dancer would be caught DEAD wearing a see-through lace unitard."

Of course, no backlash is complete without a backlash to the backlash, with some viewers making fun of those concerned about the inaccuracies of the ad. Yet the questions and complaints raised by dancers highlights an issue facing advertisers and marketers: How to pass the sniff test for experts and novices alike.

One motive for the outrage may be some dancers' suspicion that ballet isn't "big" enough to warrant the type of attention to detail that top marketers such as Nike or Gatorade put into their commercials. After all, Nike is unlikely to feature an ad with football players wearing ski helmets.

Of course, artistic professions are often laughably misrepresented in commercials, TV and film. Take classical musicians, who undergo years of training but rarely see an actor accurately play an instrument. It rankles those in the know, but, as in the case of the Free People ad, those goofs probably only bother those who know better.

  • Aimee Picchi

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