Should This Ballet Company's Ad Have Been Banned from the Metro?

September 28, 2017

Most ads promoting upcoming ballets don’t feature blood streaming from a gruesome wound. But that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t be able to take risks with their campaigns. Right?

Last week, we heard that an ad for Montreal-based Les Grands Ballets Canadiens’ upcoming production of Edward Clug’s Stabat Mater was banned by the Société de transports de Montréal (STM) because they feared the image could “incite violence.”

“The idea came from the music by Pergolesi, which represents the Virgin Mary suffering the loss of her son,” artistic director Ivan Cavallari told the Montreal Gazette. “They speak of violence, but it’s not an image that evokes violence. If they think it’s violent, then what do they say about all the very pretty women in ads for lingerie, who are almost naked?”

Though the image is definitely graphic, Cavallari has a point. There are sexually explicit images everywhere, and ads for movies and television shows are often far more violent that what Grand Ballets’ image depicts.

Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time a Canadian ballet company’s ad campaign has come under fire within the last year: National Ballet of Canada’s “We Move You” campaign, which very innocently portrayed dancers leaping through subway cars and train platforms, was criticized for perpetuating “unrealistic and highly regimented bodies as some sort of an ideal of ‘beauty.'” Our take on that controversy? Dancers may be artists before they’re athletes, but they’re still athletes—and no one says that images of Olympians are promoting negative body standards.

It’s enough to make you wonder if ballet companies trying to sell tickets are being held to a higher standard than, say, the newest season of “Game of Thrones” attempting to attract more viewers. Sure, people are used to seeing romantic, elegant images associated with ballet. But the form is—thankfully—evolving, and tackling more challenging subject material is a big part of that.

And if choreographers are taking risks in their ballets, it makes sense for images promoting them to reflect that.