Last Friday, pop culture artist Jeff Koons put a 45-foot-tall metallic ballerina smack in the middle of New York's Rockefeller Center, and just about everyone loves it — except for ballet dancers.
In an article titled, "Oh, Good, Another Outdated Stereotype of 'Ballerinas,'" Dance Magazine's Jennifer Stahl describes the statue as "a 5-year-old's idea of a 'pretty ballerina.'"
The inflatable sculpture, titled "Seated Ballerina," features a pony-tailed blond girl tying her pointe shoes. It's part of Koons' "Antiquity" series and was inspired by a small porcelain figure of a ballerina. The public art piece is a collaboration with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children to raise awareness for National Missing Children's Month.
But to Stahl, it's also a glaring example of the stereotypical "ballerina" image that replaces a dancer's grit and athleticism with fragility and demureness.
According to the Rockefeller Center website, "The sculpture acts as a contemporary iteration of the goddess Venus, and symbolizes notions of beauty and connectivity."
Still, the dance community can't help but wish the piece had reached beyond the imaginings of the soft ballerinas most have of them as kindergarteners.
One of Stahl's colleagues had a similar reaction to the statue, and took to social media.
"This is a missed opportunity to depict ballerinas as they are: strong and powerful, not docile and fragile (and tying their ribbons up their legs). I know it's based on a figurine, but it still perpetuates stereotypes of a field that is actually marked by athleticism, beauty, and discipline."
The part about the ribbons is a common misconception: dancers actually tie the ribbons extremely tightly around their ankles, not up their calves.
The story got LOTS of comments on the magazine's Facebook page.
"I was a professional ballet dancer and this does not offend me in the least. It is fantasy," wrote one commenter.
"I agree. Why don't these sculptures and artists study their subjects even just a little? Even in a fantasy world, dancers don't have their ribbons halfway to their knees," wrote another.
You can read Stahl's full take here.