Coping With “Copy-ography”
It made No. 4 on TenduTV’s blog listing “APAP Preview: Ten Things the Dance Field Should Be Talking About in 2012,” and I’m sure it has been popping up in your conversations more and more. What is it? The issue of intellectual property rights, otherwise known to dance teachers as “Hey, that’s my choreography!”
This is a slippery subject, but one that is probably causing plenty of heartache and heartburn this competition season. It would seem that if an idea came out of your head, you would own that idea, but life today is rarely that simple. The professional world with all its contracts and lawyers still can’t figure out if Beyoncé really “stole” those steps from Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker when putting together her “Countdown” video.
It’s even worse for those of us in the dance studio trenches, where video cameras outnumber contracts 1,000 to 1. What prevents a teacher from using steps she picked up at a convention in her own dances and calling them her own? What stops Studio C from re-creating Studio D’s award-winning competition number from last season? Or, with more and more competitions streaming live, even stealing from this season?
Years ago I read a magazine article about a studio that did a number to “It’s Oh So Quiet” with the dancers as librarians. Eureka! Not even having seen it, I immediately imagined what it would look like: the funny moments, the choreography, how we’d use books and chairs and tables to build this crazy number. As tempted as I was (and believe me, you know those days when you’d kill for just one good brainstorm), I never did it, because, well, it was someone else’s idea.
Some people see nothing wrong with lifting ideas, songs, concept, even entire choreography sequences, from work they catch on YouTube, in competition, in recitals. One of my studio-owner friends calls it “copy-ography.” We chatted about it one night after lessons, and while in some industries a similar discussion might involve copyrights or compensation, we just decided the whole situation is very sad. I think I’ll stick to my own ideas, thank you, good or bad. —Karen White, Associate Editor
It’s a Team Effort
The musical The Wild Bride, performed by Cornwall, England–based Kneehigh Theatre Company at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, is a prime example of a collaborative process that works. The production is stunning, with a rustic set, emotionally driven dance numbers, and music that’s a blend of blues and Eastern European folk—nothing I’ve ever heard before.
Because I am interested in adapting literary works for the stage, without simply reiterating the text theatrically, I was intrigued by how in this production (adapted from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale “The Handless Maiden”), word, set, movement, and score came together in a way that made a 150-plus-years-old story seem fresh, complex, and relevant.
In the program notes, Emma Rice, the show’s director and co-director of Kneehigh, reveals the troupe’s creative process. She works on sketches with the designer to create an environment for the story to live in and exchanges music that feels right to her with the musical director/composer, who then comes up with a “musical palette of melodies.” Amazingly, no script is created with the writer; instead poems, lyrics, and ideas are produced and a structure is mapped out in order to maintain an element of surprise. “The shared imagination is greater than any individual, so we begin the rehearsal by returning to the story,” Rice says. “We tell it to each other, scribble thoughts on huge pieces of paper, relate it to our own experience. We create characters, always looking to serve and subvert the story.”
So that is how a collaborative process that engages all the players fosters original, creative art. Regardless of the story that compels us to the stage, unique work often is not created alone. Sometimes you need others, and even your students, to help you scratch that itch. —Arisa White, Editorial Assistant