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CHOREOGRAPHY AND PLAGIARISM

 At The International Choreographers’ Organization and Networking Services - Dance ICONS, Inc., we take the practices of authorship, infringement and copyright protection very seriously.   


 "Borrowing" material and ideas in art are as old as humanity.   Mozart notoriously took undeveloped musical material from his opponent Salieri and transformed it into beautiful concertos, since Salieri could not do it. Igor Stravinsky utilized many Russian folkloric musical themes in his work.  In both cases, there was no formal acknowledgment made about the sources.


 George Balanchine famously said: God creates; I do not create. I assemble and I steal everywhere to do it - from what I see, from what the dancers can do, from what others do.” The concept of “stealing” or “borrowing vs plagiarism” is also very popular when famous works of art are copied with a lower quality of execution. Often we can see a very bad copy of a very good work of art. This could be an infringement unless additional ideas have been added to the copy to make it look differently brilliant. See pop art icon, Andy Warhol.


 Since most dance professionals do not have the legal expertise to properly adjudicate plagiarism, at Dance ICONS, Inc., we have a prominent intellectual property and copyright attorney serving on our Board of Directors to consult on various topics when there is a question or a dispute.  The copyrights and intellectual property laws can be summarized in one sentence:   A specific work of art is subject to authorship and intellectual property protection, while the ideas and the means of that very same artwork are not.


What is subject to copyright?


The actual completed work, including the authentic dance compositions of the specific choreography in its entirety or as substantial sections of choreography “as it is”, the steps and the moves in their unique and original combinations, set to the specific music score and within the specific environment of the work. 


What is not subject to copyright: 


 - general ideas and the concepts of the work
-  the actual movement material and the steps when taken apart, deconstructed and/or used as separate elements and/or artistic reference to the same or other works.
-  the setting of the work in terms of the same music score, set, costumes, staging, and environment


Two works might look similar; however, that does not automatically make the works the same.  When a specific choreography has been “copied” but then modified, the newest modification is no longer plagiarism but could be considered a "take on", as well as “reference” and (new/different) interpretation on the original specific work. This often happens in pop music.


In summary: dance ideas and concepts are available to use without permission. In addition, there is no copyright protection and infringement on the actual dance material and movement vocabulary such as rolling on the floor, sassy steps, moonwalk, arabesque, pirouettes, etc.  


 Titles of any dance pieces are also not subject to copyright protection.  For example, you can create and call your dance “Romeo and Juliet”, without crediting Shakespeare and without obligations to use the music created by Prokofiev for the ballet with the same title.


 A good example is Jerome RobbinsWest Side Story” which is inspired by and based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”.  There is no acknowledgment of Shakespeare because the musical score is different, as well as the New York setting of the musical, where the names of the characters have been changed. 


In short: concepts are not subject to copyright, as well as the movement material when taken apart, and as reference or commentary.