Ballet Fails In Advertisement

I work as an editor in a special interest print magazine, which means that I get to see a lot of ads. Some are good. Most are terrible. I don’t know a whole lot about graphic design, but sometimes it’s impossible to tell what the people who create the ads were thinking. Or if they were.

I do know a little something about ballet, though. So when I stumbled upon two different ads that featured ballerinas, I stomped through the office shouting angrily for at least an hour.

There are beautiful ads and ad campains out there that feature ballet dancers. This post is not about them. This post is about ballet ads created by people who know nothing about ballet or even basic human anatomy whatsoever. Since I still work here I cannot show the offending articles for your amusement. You will have to make do with my descriptions.

The first was an ad for kitchen furniture. I found the website of the agency that created it and discovered that there was a video advert, too. It featured a real ballet dancer in some beautiful slow-motion shots, including a grand jeté. To present a unified front, the company decided to use the shot of the dancer in grand jeté for their print ads as well. Since kitchens are quite rectangular and right angles start looking boring real quick, they decided to photoshop the ballerina in at an angle. This is where it all started to go horribly wrong.

It’s not that you can’t do a grand jeté at an angle. Look at Giselle. It’s just that their model didn’t do it. So they just pasted her in at an angle, making the position of her torso to her legs look entirely wrong.

Collision with terrain imminent! (I’m not saying my illustrations are a shining example of anatomical correctness and perfect ballet technique, but I’m not getting paid for them, either.)

Then there was her long hair which was flying elegantly behind her in the video ad. Because the wrong angle would’ve made it look unnatural even to the most clueless observer, gratuitous photoshop violence was inflicted on it. They made it look like it was hanging down instead of streaming with the movement. Physics nonwithstanding, it wouldn’t even have been so bad… But for reasons unknown, they decided to make it hang down from a point about half a foot behind her actual head, making her look like an alien from that Indiana Jones movie that we don’t mention in polite company.

If you thought that ruining our poor ballerina’s technique and making her hair look weird was the end of it, you thought wrong. They also reduced the curve of her lumbar spine, annihilated all hard-won muscle definition in her arms and legs and, to add one final insult to the long list of injuries, made her torso and legs almost 30% thinner. This resulted in a plastic-doll caricature of a ballet dancer, which probably couldn’t walk on her stick-thin ankles, let alone dance.

I can only assume all this was in service of making her look more peaceful and serene. However, if that’s what they wanted… why did they go with grand allegro?! That’s what adagio is for! Also, I kinda wish more people would come away from the notion of the dainty ballerina and the wimpy danseur, because anyone who has ever seen a ballet dancer outside of a music box should know very well just how wrong that assumption is.

The second advertisement that caught my eye wasn’t quite so spectacularly bad. The ballet dancer was featured quite small and wasn’t doing anything extraordinary, just balancing on pointe. The fail was that said ballet dancer was a six-year-old girl. While this shows ignorance on the topic of ballet, at least it’s not criminal disregard for hard work and human anatomy. Still a grating thing to see.

Fortunately, real ballerinas have gained some traction in the advertising business and there are plenty of good examples. The bad ones are still around though.

Have you seen any ads featuring ballet in a particularly painful way?

Title image by Tom Hilton, CC BY 2.0. Original file here.

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