I tried on my first pair of toe shoes at 10-years-old, after several years of training. I slammed them on the floor, bent the arches as much as possible, covered my toes in wool padding, and attempted to make standing on my tiptoes look like it was easy. But, I wasn't ready. The flat top of the toe box should have been my platform from which to turn on (or, at the very least, walk on), but instead I teetered on the edge of the little square every time I went up to relevé. No matter how hard I pointed my feet, the shoes looked more like mini cement blocks rather than an extension of my feet. And, forget about being graceful.
Unstable and probably about to fall over and twist my ankle, I was instructed by my strict, no-B.S. teacher to get down and get stronger before trying again. While I soon after decided to retire my pink, satin cinder blocks, I can tell you that my only attempt at dancing en pointe looked an awful lot like frame 1:19 in this video.
Produced by Free People, this nearly two-minute vignette, "FP Movement Ballet," features a model who twirls around in some of the brand's flowy dance gear while a voiceover plays in the background. "I've been dancing since I was three," she says. But, I didn't get the impression that she had extensive experience with classical ballet, and neither did hundreds of YouTube commenters who instantly recognized that this woman's pointe technique is not only wrong, but — like 10-year-old me wobbling around in sous sus — dangerous.
Like many of the responders, I instantly questioned why Free People didn't hire a professional dancer to demonstrate how their Movement collection complements someone who's constantly stretching, jumping, and turning. Naturally, there are ballerinas who could have easily and eagerly filled this role. While AdWeek makes the case that brands like Under Armour took the right step, employing ballet star Misty Copeland for their campaigns, it's not to say Free People had to take the same approach, either. If the brand decided to choose this particular model, why not ask her to do a contemporary piece, jazz routine, interpretive dance? Why not make this about a woman who just loves dance, and not ask her to attempt what can be closely compared to performing a Bach concerto without learning all the notes.
We've reached out to Free People for a comment but have not yet received a response. Though we're not exactly surprised the story they're telling isn't entirely true to life (hey, it's a commercial after all), we do wish there had been some tough-as-nails dance teacher who told this woman to take off the shoes.