Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker Responds to Beyoncé Video
"Like so many people, I was extremely surprised when I got a message through Facebook about the special appearance of my two choreographies – Rosas danst Rosas (1983) and Achterland (1990) in Beyoncé’s new videoclip 'Countdown'.
I was asked if I were now selling out Rosas into the commercial circuit…When I saw the actual video, I was struck by the resemblance of Beyoncé’s clip not only with the movements from Rosas danst Rosas, but also with the costumes, the set and even the shots from the film by Thierry De Mey.
Obviously, Beyoncé, or the video clip director Adria Petty, plundered many bits of the integral scenes in the film, which the videoclip made by Studio Brussel by juxtaposing Beyoncé‘s video and the Rosas danst Rosas film gives a taste of. But this videoclip is far from showing all materials that Beyoncé took from Rosas in Countdown. There are many movements taken from Achterland, but it is less visible because of the difference in aesthetics.
People asked me if I’m angry or honored. Neither, on the one hand, I am glad that Rosas danst Rosas can perhaps reach a mass audience which such a dance performance could never achieve, despite its popularity in the dance world since 1980s. And, Beyoncé is not the worst copycat, she sings and dances very well, and she has a good taste!
On the other hand, there are protocols and consequences to such actions, and I can’t imagine she and her team are not aware of it. To conclude, this event didn’t make me angry, on the contrary, it made me think a few things.
Like, why does it take popular culture thirty years to recognize an experimental work of dance? A few months ago, I saw on YouTube a clip where schoolgirls in Flanders are dancing Rosas danst Rosas to the music of Like a Virgin by Madonna. And that was touching to see. But with global pop culture it is different, does this mean that thirty years is the time that it takes to recycle non-mainstream experimental performance?
And, what does it say about the work of Rosas danst Rosas? In the 1980s, this was seen as a statement of girl power, based on assuming a feminine stance on sexual expression. I was often asked then if it was feminist. Now that I see Beyonce dancing it, I find it pleasant but I don’t see any edge to it. It’s seductive in an entertaining consumerist way. Beyond resemblance there is also one funny coincidence. Everyone told me, she is dancing and she is four months pregnant. In 1996, when De Mey‘s film was made, I was also pregnant with my second child. So, today, I can only wish her the same joy that my daughter brought me."
-Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, October 10th, 2011
Let's start with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's own question. "Why does it take popular culture thirty years to recognize an experimental work of dance?" What can we do to improve this?
Are artists like Beyonce hungry to discover more about dance? I think so. She clearly felt inspired by these films. I also think the public is hungry for more, beyond television competitions, as ratings for these shows are decreasing, but viewing videos online continues to increase.
And what about copyright issues for both dancers and musicians? How do we address this adequately with the rise in low budget videos released daily on video platforms, like YouTube?
For me, I see this as a learning opportunity for all artists. As seen with many web dances, and predominately with hip hop styles, dancers are use popular music tracks for performances and for creating short films.
As it is common for dancers to use music to create a variety of works, several videos posted online have not known how to handle the copyright issues. Some never include this information, while others promote their dance videos by including the music artist in the title of the video. Because music has been deleted from videos by YouTube, as a way to address this issue, dancers have learned to mention copyright concerns, and credit the artists and music they use for their videos.
Many dance videos include information that reads as follows:
I DO NOT OWN THE RIGHTS TO THIS MUSIC.
***NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED*** "This video uses copyrighted material in a manner that does not require approval of the copyright holder. It is a fair use under copyright law.
"quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author's observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported."
In addition, it is commonplace for dancers to share their sources of inspiration to present their work, including why a piece of music was chosen or used. This is not always the case for musicians and their songs.
It appears that musicians can be equally inspired by dance and choreography to create music videos. Would it help to learn how and why Beyonce or her team were inspired by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's works? It certainly wouldn't hurt.
Do I think that Beyonce should credit Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker in her music video? Of course! It would help the millions of viewers discover a deeper view of the arts and their creators.
What is the best way to support this need for recognition of artists going forward? For example, can YouTube recognize choreography that is being duplicated as well as it can recognize music? I think not. How can the dance community help in this regard? We won't always be able to hear the feedback from artists such as Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, to learn who's choreography is being used, and a breakdown of what's different from the original work. More discussion is needed in these areas to build awareness and appreciation by the public.
I believe that artists can play important roles in educating others about dance. I look forward to the influence they will have on educating the public about their own works, and those of others.
By Dawn Paap