The Struggle of Originality

Choreography can be a super fun endeavor or quite a struggle depending on the situation. It can be a mind game of sorts as it takes a lot of creativity, thinking, and altering to transform movement into a dance. There are many elements that go into the making of a dance piece. First, there is the concept or theme, then the movement, plus the music to go along with it, and costumes and lighting… the list goes on and on. But when you arrive at an end result, it can be amazing and powerful to create and say something without the use of words.

In this current world where social media runs the show, and videos are heavily accessible, it can be hard to produce truly original or unique content. The most unique part about choreography is how you put it together and organize the movement in space and time and perhaps with other dancers. To be honest here, most dance steps, gestures,or patterns have been done before and just like a plot or story for a movie, they become unique when you change it around and generate an idea through the voice of your own mind.

Take Disney movies as an example. Over the years, Disney has reused animation of their dance choreography, and were therefore copying their own movement material. Check out what I am talking about below:

Ahhhh, Disney movies. 🙂 Anyways… so even though they copied the exact same movement animation, the different characters and stories portrayed allowed the movement to become unique and special to each certain movie. In this particular situation, we do not have a case of copyright infringement as Disney is just recycling their own material. However, copyright infringement is a serious thing if you regurgitate someone else’s choreography and present it as your own. A more well-known instance of this occurred between Beyoncé and Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Check it out below:

As you can see in this comparison, Beyonce’s music video for ‘Countdown’ very closely copied the choreography, costuming, and style seen in Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s works ‘Rosas danst Rosas’ and ‘Achterland‘. Although Beyoncé should have been charged with copyright infringement, as she did not even credit Keersmaeker in the video, this event was basically pushed under the rug due to the popularity of Beyoncé.

Therefore, when choreographing, it is best to never copy movement directly, or you may find yourself in a sticky situation. You can use the work of others as a source of inspiration, or an aid, but never as a carbon copy. Just like plagiarism in writing, make the choice to use your own voice through dance, not someone else’s.



A Physicalized Statement

One of the best ways that dance adds to the world, is by making a statement through movement and physical expression. Word are everywhere, constantly bombarding us on the daily with statements, expectations of right and wrong, and generalized opinions that we are often expected to conform to. Therefore it is often refreshing when an idea or opinion in support of something is expressed through the means of dancing. Not only does dance allow for a new way of expressing something, but it also becomes a more honest assertion as it involves the vulnerability of your whole body, and not just words.

In honor of the Superbowl this past Sunday, dance was used in a major way during the halftime performance by Beyoncé and her backup dancers.  Although the statements that Beyoncé made through this particular performance were quite controversial by different viewers across the country, nobody can deny that a statement was indeed made, and accentuated because of the direction and style of the involved movement within it. The use of formations to create an image, and dressing all of her backup dancers in the same exact costume adds to artistic expression. If you haven’t seen the halftime performance yet, check it out below.

(Start at 7:05 for Beyoncé)