Under Armour launches new campaign directed toward women empowerment

In an effort to compete with the women sportswear powerhouses of Nike and Lululemon, Under Armour has launched the “I Will What I Want” campaign—its largest campaign aimed and directed at women empowerment. The company launched the campaign with a commercial featuring the story of Misty Copeland, an African-American ballerina from the American Ballet Theater, who has gained popularity in the dance world.

The advertisement featuring Copeland went viral on Youtube, receiving four million views within its first week of release. In the ad, Copeland is heard reading a rejection letter from a dance academy which says she has the wrong body type for dance and is then shown leaping across a stage, proving the writers of the letter wrong.

For the dance community, Copeland and this video offer many breakthroughs. One of them is the heightened awareness she brings to allowing other races to be a part of the ballet community, Allie Meyer ’15 said.

Copeland is the first African-American soloist in two decades to perform at the American Ballet Theater. The American Ballet Theater is one of the most prestigious dance companies in the world, with few others meeting its size, scope and outreach. Copeland joined the American Ballet Theater in 2000 and was appointed to soloist in 2007, making her one of the youngest American ballet dancers promoted to soloists.

Copeland is also helping to break the physical stereotype of ballerinas, and she has proven that talent is not dictated by size but by one’s desire to dance, dance teacher Tiffany Van Cleaf said.

Another effect of the Under Armour advertisement is the awareness Copeland brings regarding the degree of athleticism required to be a dancer.

Dance is an art form, a sport and a science, said Kristy White, dance teacher at Lincolnshire Dance Academy. It is an art in the sense that it is very expressive, incorporating movements that can tell a story, or gives a feeling, while it is seen as a sport in competitions where dancers must show their ability to move and dance in unison with technique and strength, White said.

“Dance requires just as much athleticism [as a sport], but there is also an artistic component,” Meyer said. “Dance is twice the commitment. You are committed as an athlete and as an artist.”

Van Cleaf said the competitive element associated with sports is found primarily in the competitive side of dance where dancers must meet certain requirements and are evaluated on how precise their technique is.

People often make comments about how dance does not require athleticism or is for people who cannot do sports, Meyer said. However, she does not take offense when she hears these comments because she said the people who make them do not understand the difficulty and skill that goes into dancing.

Although Copeland may not change the overall view of athleticism in dancers, her physique alone might change the viewpoint of at least some people who were previously ignorant, White said.

In the video, the muscles and tendons in Copeland’s legs are emphasized as she slowly rises to a standing position on the tips of her toes and then performs her routine. This demonstration of her muscles is a visual example of the athleticism needed in dance.

Copeland’s appearance in the video is provoking a lot of change in the dance community. Perhaps the greatest impact of her involvement with Under Armour’s campaign is the awareness and respect she is bringing to dance through her advertisement.

“Yes, she is black. Yes, she is a female, but being a dancer gives her a third strike in the eyes of mainstream society,” White said. “[Copeland] is a fighter because not one of those things has slowed her down. I can only hope that her being the face and body of Under Armour will begin to give more respect to dancers in general.”