Free People Ballet Campaign | A Stroke of Genius?

I am going to jump on the bandwagon here and discuss the new Free People Ballet Campaign ad that’s caused quite an uproar in the dance community. If you haven’t heard or seen the ad, it basically is meant to display a new line of clothing designed for dancers (ballet dancers specifically, I’m assuming) by Free People. The commercial itself is showing a beautiful, tall, and slender model with long gorgeous limbs (reminiscent of what the stereotypical ballet dancer looks like) wearing the clothes and performing some ballet-type movement. While she’s dancing around in various locations, there is a voiceover stating how she’s been dancing since she was three years old, and she loves how the structured ballet class teaches her discipline and to truly know her body. 

As someone who actually began dancing when I was 3, who has been involved in the dance world for over 20 years, and who has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in dance, I definitely agree with most of the sentiment that’s been going around the internet by trained dancers everywhere. What they’re saying is that the woman in the ad (and the others in the photos on their website) has terribly poor technique, and that they should have hired real dancers for this campaign. The only thing is that they’re angry about it. Like, really angry.

Free People - FP Movement Campaign

Here are some of the comments made by the YouTube video, the Free People Facebook page, and AdWeekly’s article about this topic:

Free people this ad is such a slap in the face to trained dancers everywhere. 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!” 

“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.”  

Did Free People Have a Stroke of Genius?

While I agree with their sentiments due to my knowledge of the ballet technique, the question I’m posing is: Was this really a mistake on the part of Free People? Look at how much publicity they’re getting from the uproar this ad campaign has caused! Their YouTube video has gotten over 200,000 views and counting over the past 5 days that its been online, and their blog has gotten so many hits on that one page where they show all the models that are WAY off the box of her point shoes (seriously dangerous, folks. OUCH!) and don’t have proper form. 

Free People with Ballet Zaida

Free People Re-Launch with Ballet Zaida

They just actually posted a re-launch today with REAL dancers this time from Ballet Zaida. This will not only make the outraged dancers happy, but will bring plenty of attention to the fact that they are now “mending their ways.” I am now, even more than before, convinced that this was a strategic move on the part of Free People, and a good one at that. 

Would dancers have even considered purchasing Free people’s new dance wear line if they hadn’t been outraged to begin with? Free People clothing can be a bit expensive, especially for young dancers struggling to make ends meat on a dancer’s salary by working 7 other part time jobs on the side. Now that people have the chance to feel a bit better about Free People, I’m 1000% positive that this line will do very well. Even with dancers who typically can’t really afford to shop at Free People anywhere other than their sale racks. 

The dancers in the re-launch are absolutely beautiful, and their form is better than correct. I do feel a bit bad for the girl in the original video, though. She’s a person too, and I’m sure by reading all those nasty comments about her, that did not make her feel very good about herself. I personally just want to shout out to her (the model in the Free People video) and say you are a beautiful girl, and I’m sure you have a VERY bright future in the modeling industry. I mean, c’mon, landing a Free People ad campaign must be huge for your career, especially considering the amount of publicity its gotten. Just please do me a favor, if you ever do dance again, just get on top of the box when you’re on pointe. You could really hurt yourself if you don’t. Also, a few core strengthening exercises might do you some good as well. Hang in there, girl! 

Best Wishes,

The Dance Grad