Why dancers are really mad about this Free People Movement ad

This ballerina is not quite en pointe.

Last week, Free People expanded its activewear line, FP Movement, to include yoga, surf, and ballet collections, with videos promoting each. But the ballet video, which depicts a model who says she’s been “dancing since I was three” practicing in pointe shoes, has the dance community fuming, since, apparently, she clearly has not.

The video has racked up more than 650,000 views on Youtube and close to 900 (mostly angry) comments, and it’s already inspired a parody. A dancer friend showed me a video-bashing email chain that was circulating among her fellow ballerinas. It wasn’t all that different from what’s on Youtube:

“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,” wrote one commenter, who’s opinion was echoed over and over again.

Of course, others noted that the model’s job was to sell clothes, not be cast as an American Ballet Theatre soloist. But the public’s reaction is one fashion brands should pay close attention to—and be reminded of. (American Apparel made this faux-yoga faux pas in 2009.)

For the most part there’s a self-awareness among fitness brands. Many have tapped accomplished yogis and actual athletes to market their clothes in action—like celeb yogi Elena Brower collaborating with Lole or actual ABT soloist Misty Copeland’s recent Under Armour campaign—and done so with great results.

So as more fashion brands get into making fitness clothes, they should probably take this cue from Free People: Real plié inspiration goes a long way to helping customers splurge on Pirouette Pants. —Lisa Elaine Held

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