Magazine article Dance Magazine

Tempest on a Billboard

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Tempest on a Billboard

Article excerpt

The New York dance community was up in arms last winter about an ESPN advertising campaign featuring the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. "Without Sports," read the ad, "They'd Just Be Dancers." The ad was part of a series by the all-sports cable channel that was centered around how empty life would be without sports. It was intended to be funny, but dancers in New York--where the ad campaign was first seen on subways, bus shelters, and billboards--were hardly laughing.

Robert Yesselman, director of Dance/USA's New York branch, began receiving emails from dancers who found the ad offensive. "The word 'just' used in reference to interpretive artists who spend their lives training for short-lived careers was pejorative to many people," he said.

Yesselman contacted ESPN and was pleased to find them both concerned and cooperative. After some negotiation, they agreed to pull this particular ad from the "Without Sports" series and design a new one that put dance in a more flattering light.

When DANCE MAGAZINE contacted ESPN, Alison B. Lazar, national ad sales and corporate communications representative for the network, wrote in an email that "the ad was never intended to offend dancers.... Our intent was to send a positive message about the role of sports in our society and to do so creatively and with a touch of fun. However, we understood the dancer's perspective and apologized to members of the dance community."

Indeed, ESPN took out a full-page, color ad in DANCE MAGAZINE's May 2003 issue featuring Lynn Swann, former star wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers. …

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