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Misty Copeland's Under Armour ad

23 posts in this topic

(moderators -- if there's another thread already, or if this belongs in a different forum, please move it)

I need to start by saying that I haven't seen Copeland dance live, and so like many of the people seeing these ads, my image of her comes mostly from video and print. I was struck, in the comment threads on Jezebel, with the variety of responses, from "I didn't know dance was that hard" to "I remember how hard it was when I was training." Related to the conversation elsewhere on BA about role models, many of the comments here are not keyed exclusively to race, or even to body type conventions -- this is eavesdropping on a different audience.

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Yes, but I was more interested in the commentary from people outside of the professional/avocational world. We often worry that dance runs under the radar for the vast part of the population -- I was interested in seeing those responses.

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Yes, but I was more interested in the commentary from people outside of the professional/avocational world. We often worry that dance runs under the radar for the vast part of the population -- I was interested in seeing those responses.

Those were good to read, of course!

But I did find it amusing that an ad that makes a fuss about overcoming negative assessments of one's body type -- including not having the "right feet" -- generated comments like this: "Murphy's Gaynors hurt my heart. They actually manage to make a principal at ABT look like she has bad feet."

ETA: the comment I quoted was in response to a picture of Gillian Murphy that someone had posted as an example of (and I quote) "a more typical [ballet] body type." In any event, Murphy's feet look just fine to me.

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I'm an avid US Open watcher on ESPN, and I've seen Misty's Under Armour ad numerous times during the commercial breaks.

Looks like Misty is going to have some major competition. Under Armour has signed supermodel Giselle Bundchen as a spokesperson. The link mentions that Bundchen, Lindsay Vonn, Kelley O'Hara and Sloane Stevens will be part of a new ad campaign.

http://www.foxsports.com/buzzer/story/2014/09/02/under-armour-now-boasts-tom-brady-and-gisele-b-ndchen-as-bigtime-endorsers.html

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That is an interesting combination of people, but in some ways a much more conventional set of choices for this product than Copeland herself. Notice that this Fox Sports article doesn't mention Copeland as part of the ad campaign.

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I will take it as a good sign that a sports network fails to recognize Copeland as an athlete. Perhaps ballet is still an art form after all.

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Maybe Under Armour has decided that their main customer base for women are women who are interested in and participate in sports, not ballet. Bundchen's hiring is a little odd in this regard, but her husband Tom Brady has been a spokesman since 2010, so maybe they are going to do some ads as a couple. The couple that works out together can stay together and look like Tom and Gisele?

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Here's a giant Misty Copeland Under Armour billboard on Lafayette Street heading uptown towards Astor Place. Not a great shot, but you'll get the idea ...

Edit: Ugh ... issues with source file. I hope to get the image up again later today ...

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"And at 13, you are too old to be considered."

Didn't Nureyev start very late also? 15 years old?

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Nureyev was 17 when he entered the Vaganova Academy, though he had a background in Bashkir folk dancing. The training of the Canadian ballerina Evelyn Hart was fraught with all sorts of difficulties and interruptions, so she did not begin serious, systematic training until she was 17, but by 20 she was a professional dancer. Four years later she won the gold medal at Varna. Tomas Schramek had never been a ballet dancer when he fled Czechoslovakia in 1968, but he had been a professional Slovakian folk dancer, and his training included ballet. He was hired by the National Ballet of Canada and became a principal dancer within four years. The first time I saw him on stage was as the Prince in Nureyev's production of Sleeping Beauty, and that choreography is no walk in the park!

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Melissa Hayden started late, at 15 or 16. There was always more of a chance to start late as a man, too.

In her recent Ballet Initiative podcast interview, Alicia Graf Mack said that it was possible for Copeland because she was a prodigy.

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I don't remember the details of Breaking Pointe, but I seem to recall that Ballet West's Allison DeBona began her serious training much later than most. Certainly it's unusual for ballet dancers to have begun their training as teens, but it does happen.

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De Bona started young and was quite serious, but stopped training for a few years in high school before she started again. She had the foundation before she stopped. She did, though, attend Indiana University before starting her professional career.

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Nureyev was 17 when he entered the Vaganova Academy, though he had a background in Bashkir folk dancing.

Melissa Hayden started late, at 15 or 16. There was always more of a chance to start late as a man, too.

Thank you both for your professional and informatics replying!

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I have another question regarding the ballet body. Would Ivan Vasiliev be considered to have the "right / wrong" body for ballet, if he had applied the America Ballet School?

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In America basic foundation training can happen at local studios anywhere or at the company-affiliated or other elite schools. Just about anyone can train in ballet, even at the elite schools in the general/"no audition" tracks, and where focused professional training starts in the tweens or teens when students are allowed to live away from home. It's not like at the Vaganova Academy or Paris Opera Ballet School where their sole purpose traditionally is to train a very small number of students who meet strict standards for body type, proportions, flexibility and other physical attributes and for whom they predict the "correct" body past adolescence to become professional dancers. (Now they have a sub-business in attracting international students who will write college tuition-sized checks to subsidize their schools.)

If he were an American, chances are that if he survived the Creative Movement recital in which he was the only boy, and they stuck a bunny tail on him, or bypassed that and started later, Vasiliev, if he became serious in ballet and showed promise -- or tagged along for auditions with friends and got in -- would have auditioned for summer intensives, and as a boy, likely would have gotten at least partial scholarships, and then would have been invited for training in a year-round professional program, leading to a contract. If he attended SAB, chances are his musculature would have been different, simply from the training he would have gotten. There have been plenty of men at NYCB and any number of SAB students dancing around the world who are shorter virtuoso dancers: body type is much less of an issue in America than in Russia, and in Russia, he received elite training and won Moscow and Varna and joined the Bolshoi, so it wasn't an obstacle there either for him, where the standards are a lot more limiting.

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I have been think about this often. But, I have not solution and answer. Just thinking and watching, to see if I can get inspiration and perception.


The "right body" for ballet indeed represent kind of beauty. Ballet performance asks for dancers not only to complete the body movements as choreographer has required, which is just the first step. The more important is to portray the characters in ballet drama. Just like singing opera requires good voices, beautiful voices; dancing ballet asks for "right body", beautiful bodies.


The "right bodies" can play as princes and princesses beautifully. But, the "wrong bodies" might score a great success in the characters in modern ballets.


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Just like singing opera requires good voices, beautiful voices; dancing ballet asks for "right body", beautiful bodies.

Over the years, we've had multiple conversations on the board about "right body," but I think the closest we've come to consensus is that there are always exceptions to the rule. In the end, I'm less interested in creating boundaries that keep people in their place than I am in seeing what they do when they're working at the edges of their skills.

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Just like singing opera requires good voices, beautiful voices; dancing ballet asks for "right body", beautiful bodies.

Opera might require good voices, but opera does not require beautiful voices. There have been many great voices that are far from beautiful -- Callas comes first to mind -- and a number of beautiful voices that were used in a very dull, unimaginative way.

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Yes, there have been very great singers with less than beautiful voices, and there have been even more singers with beautiful voices, who, unfortunately, are extremely uninteresting musicians and performers. Much depends on the repertoire. Mozart sung by unbeautiful voices is usually intolerable, but in other repertoire power or agility are more important than a beautiful voice, and even in Mozart good technique is more important than lovely timbre. A beautiful voice is a wonderful thing to have, but it isn't the most important thing.

Ballet is not necessarily that different. A beautiful physique is also a wonderful thing, but it doesn't automatically translate into a good dancer. Just as I've heard lots of lovely-sounding but boring singers, I've seen (so-called) dancers with beautiful bodies, who are also awkward, technically deficient, unmusical, inexpressive, dramatically inert and/or just plain uninteresting. And as with opera, some ballets can tolerate flawed bodies better than others, as yudi noted.

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Maybe Under Armour has decided that their main customer base for women are women who are interested in and participate in sports, not ballet. Bundchen's hiring is a little odd in this regard, but her husband Tom Brady has been a spokesman since 2010, so maybe they are going to do some ads as a couple. The couple that works out together can stay together and look like Tom and Gisele?

Under Armour is attempting increase its sales to all women, regardless of their participation or interest in ballet or a specific sport. I believe Kevin Plank, Under Armour's CEO, views the company as a lifestyle company, more than just a sportswear company.

Here are two articles for those interested:

  1. Under Armour Goes After Lululemon With Gisele And 'Womanifesto' (Forbes)
  2. Skin in the Game: Under Armour knows athletes. Can it sell to everyone else? (The New Yorker)

Disclosure: I own Under Armour shares.

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Further to my prior reply, there's an article in today's online Wall Street Journal Athletic-Gear Makers Run Into a Problem: Their Workout Clothing Is Too Sporty. (subscription likely required)

The key takeaway from this article is that being merely supportive athletic wear is the minimum requirement. Instead, athletic wear must provide its function and look great. Fashion has become more important.

The big three performance brands—Nike, Under Armour Inc. and Adidas AG—which started out targeting men with high-performance materials, are turning their attention to the women’s market, which they see fueling growth in the years to come. Under Armour recently hired new executives to lead its women’s apparel and footwear divisions. CEO Kevin Plank in January forecast its women’s business to eventually outsell its men’s business.

Nike forecasts sales of women’s products will roughly double by 2020, though its share of total sales will remain about the same. In its last fiscal year, women’s gear accounted for 22% of Nike brand’s $25.8 billion sales.

Disclosure: I own Under Armour shares.

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