Listen, Elle Fanning seems like a nice and talented person, and this is superficially a reasonably cute video. But to actual dancers, it's anything but cute. It's not that ballet dancers are just an angry fleet of Black Swans ready to swarm on anyone who dares disrespect us — it's just that ballet is already so misrepresented (either we're sparkly waifs or sweaty fitness objects) that we genuinely want to be excited if and when our art form is being recognized. And inevitably, we end up bummed because it's the either the same already-ubiquitous dancers getting even more publicity, or worse: A celebrity with no (or nowhere near enough) dance experience is being masqueraded as a dancer. This happens so often that everyone just needs to not, because we can only write so many angry Facebook posts. (I was a strict ballet dancer for 18 years, and have a BFA in Dance, for whatever it's worth.)
Elle Fanning, must you test me today? For the second time in a month, Vanity Fair has caused ballet dancers to go apeshit, because they had a celebrity — one who is not a professional dancer or dance instructor — demonstrate "how to do ballet" for a promotional video. Sound familiar? That's because this literally just happened with Kendall Jenner and Vogue, a completely different magazine, yet despite the outpouring of criticism from the dance world, nobody's figured out that maybe it's time to chill with the fake ballet videos and just use professionals instead. Fanning is just the latest celeb to get caught in the fire, and here's what we're freaking about:
I'm not going to pretend I know the motivation behind this particular Vanity Fair shoot, but it looks like the idea stems from a common celeb-video trope: Have a celebrity teach a weird skill. There's
showing you how to "pretend" to be a cheerleader, and it's pretty fun because she's not acting like an actual expert, you see? Fanning does have some dance training and has said she goes to dance classes frequently, but I think they could've thought of a better thing for Fanning to do, even just a gentler and more beginner-friendly dance lesson that didn't involve dangerously teetering around on pointe shoes. But that's not really the point.
So what is the point? Just use real dancers. There are so many dancers who are just waiting in the wings for a shining moment of getting noticed in the "real world." There are even tons who are celebrated for having great fashion sense, if that happens to be the angle of the story. I don't think that's any more unrealistic of an expectation as it is for actual dancers to have to train their whole lives to achieve a level of perfection and acumen. Here's a pitch: What about a video of a professional ballerina teaching Fanning how to do a piqué turn? I would watch that.