Free People’s New Ballet Clothing Line: Insult or Opportunity for Exposure?

Earlier this week, clothing company Free People debuted a new line of “barre-ready dancewear and ethereal warm-up essentials,” called FP Movement Ballet. And while the new designs include leggings, leotards and wraps—all absolutely serviceable dancewear—Free People’s blog has gotten some heavy flack for featuring a pointe shoe–wearing model who dances only recreationally, rather than professionally. ("Definitely missed the mark, FP," says one anonymous commenter; "A slap in the face to ALL professional ballet dancers out there," comments Michael.)

Some of the photos, particularly of the model up on pointe, look unsafe. It’s all too easy to imagine her rolling over her ankle from such an unstable position. (As DT has shared, wearing pointe shoes before a body is physically prepared can lead to long-term injury and irreversible damage.) The clothing line’s accompanying promotional video is currently being shared—and condemned—on Facebook by outraged dancers and teachers who claim Free People has insulted the dance world by not choosing a professional dancer to model the clothing and shoes.

What do you think? Is this a good opportunity to get ballet the exposure and attention it needs, or is it an insult to dancers everywhere who know bad ballet when they see it?
Teacher Voices
Getty Images

I often teach ballet over Zoom in the evenings, shortly after sunset. Without the natural light coming from my living room window, I drag a table lamp next to my portable barre so that the computer's camera can see me clearly enough. I prop the laptop on a chair taken from the kitchen and then spend the next few hours running back and forth between the computer screen of Zoom tiles and my makeshift dance floor.

Much of this setup is the result of my attempts to recreate the most important aspects of an in-person dance studio: I have a barre, a floor and as much space as I can reasonably give myself within a small apartment. I do not, however, have a mirror, and neither do most of my students.

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Allie Burke, courtesy Lo Cascio

If you'd hear it on the radio, you won't hear it in Anthony Lo Cascio's tap classes.

"If I play a song that my kids know, I'm kind of disappointed in myself," he says. "I either want to be on the cutting edge or playing the classics."

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Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

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