Few realize that young dancers go through around ten years of training and acquire a tremendous amount of strength and techniqe before stepping into pointe shoes. Vogue Spain tarnished this idea when they featured Kendall Jenner, who pretended to be a dancer wearing ballerina attire and posed in a studio. The training that ballerinas go through is why a real ballerina’s pointed foot looks so different from a model’s and why attempts to showcase the art form in fashion have often been unsuccessful, insulting and, in the case of the pointe shoes, dangerous.
Jenner’s awkward position portrays her lack of ballet training. An accompanying video shows the model in action with her voiceover musing about being a kid, letting loose, being adventurous and living a good life. While Spanish Vogue was clearly attempting to use ballet as an aesthetic and a symbol of youth and artistry, they ended up disrespecting a difficult art form — and the arts at large — by featuring a model with no classical ballet training.
This is certainly not the first time fashion has represented ballet using a non-dancer. When Free People was promoting their dancewear collection in 2014, they released a video eerily similar to the one featuring Jenner, from the voiceover talking about life to the cringeworthy technique. Dancers were frustrated by this video as well, as it was apparent that those involved in the making of the video could not even tie the pointe shoes correctly, let alone hire someone who could properly execute the skills.
Taking style cues from ballet — such as certain styles of flats, tulle skirts or wearing hair in a topknot — is acceptable. Having models pose as dancers when they cannot execute proper form is disrespectful. Dance, and art in general, has been dealing with the difficulty of accurate perception in society for a long time. Schools are regularly cutting funding for the arts, and the general public thinks of little girls daintily twirling in tutus when it imagines ballet.
Spanish Vogue could have made a much better ballet-themed feature by making some changes. Possibly, they could have used a real dancer for the shoot. Misty Copeland would be a great candidate for this, as her position as the first black principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater would attract attention. Her training as well as on-camera experience with her Under Armour “I Will What I Want” commercial would make the shoot both aesthetically pleasing and powerful. Maddie Ziegler, known for the reality show Dance Moms and appearance in Sia’s music videos, also has ballet training and could provide the youthful aspect the magazine emphasized with Jenner. Or, if they wanted a top model, Karlie Kloss has several years of experience with ballet.
If Vogue Spain felt Jenner was the only way to attract publicity, they could have ditched the idea of pointe shoes entirely and had her take a few ballet classes so she could develop some basic technique to execute some poses with grace.
The frustrations with the Jenner shoot will hopefully teach fashion publications everywhere to respect ballet. Dance is a beautiful art form and sport with a lot to offer to fashion, and when showcased properly, dancers and the general public alike can enjoy its incorporation.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 3 print edition. Email Ali Webb at [email protected]