For women tired of seeing twentysomethings’ skin featured in wrinkle-cream ads, a 52-year-old ballerina has come whirling to the rescue.
Advertisers who turn to ballet dancers typically want to convey prestige, or a message of physical power. Under Armour showcased a muscular Misty Copeland as an athlete, while Lexus used Spanish ballerina Tamara Rojo’s supple moves to call forth the precision and control of its cars.
But a TV ad for a drugstore product–No. 7 Lift & Luminate facial serum–evokes a different ballet quality. It features Alessandra Ferri, one of the greatest ballerinas of the age. After a long and celebrated international career, she retired from American Ballet Theatre in 2007. The serum ad makes no effort to conceal her age; she is wearing little makeup, and has the bare, lightly careworn skin of a down-to-earth woman of advanced years. In fact, Ferri’s age is the central focus here, as she confronts a hologram of her 19-year-old self.
It’s delightful enough that this ad gives us time to savor Ferri in motion, with her liquid smoothness and undiminished grace. But the ad also puts forth a meaningful narrative about looking back at one’s youth, and realizing that now is even better. Youthfulness is not the goal (an interesting point for a cosmetics company to make). Openness, vitality, courage: These are much more important. In her emphatic abandon, as well as her strong features, Ferri brings to mind Lauren Bacall and Anne Bancroft, stars who especially in their later years didn’t let anyone set limits for them, and who showed us that being at peace with oneself is part of being beautiful, at any age.
There’s a backstory to why we’re seeing a hologrammatic Ferri at 19: That was the exceptionally young age at which she became a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. Thankfully, with that hologram the No. 7 ad avoids the creepiness of holograms we’ve seen in the past. (Remember Michael Jackson’s 2014 resurrection at the Billboard Music Awards? Crrringe…) With careful editing and timing, there’s warmth and a sense of tenderness between the older woman and her younger self. A look appears to pass between them, and the teenage Ferri blinks her dark eyes in wonder, like Bambi peering into sunlight. The mature Ferri throws her arms open, spins toward the young girl and, in a bit of digital magic, shatters the hologram as she tornados through it.
That dark, haunting song that Ferri dances to, by the way, is “Way Down We Go” by Icelandic indie band Kaleo (which “Orange is the New Black” fans may recall from the season four trailer). It’s a perfect pairing: the slow tempo gives Ferri ample time to vary the way she moves to the music. With her elegant sass, the song acquires a sense of daring and wildness.
“Ready for more” is the commercial’s apt tag line. Ferri, who recently turned 53, has been putting those words into practice in quite spectacular fashion. Last year she danced with the Royal Ballet, in a central role in Wayne McGregor’s three-act “Woolf Works.” On June 23, she’ll return to ABT as the teenage heroine of “Romeo and Juliet” at the Metropolitan Opera House. Middle age has found its new star. Not to mention a new, inspiring face.