Dance Team

How to Protect Your Choreography From Being Stolen

The Towson University Dance Team has won seven national championships in a row at National Dance Alliance's Collegiate Championships. Each year, dancers enter the competition understanding Towson is the team to beat, waiting to see the mind-boggling synchronization, energy and complexity of its championship winning routines. With such visibility, it seems unlikely that another team would attempt to take the stage with the same choreography. Yet, last year, that very thing happened after a former Towson member sold the team's 2004 national competition routine without permission. After the incident, Towson could legally do nothing but express outrage on its website - and continue winning titles.

So what can a dance team do to protect its sacred choreography? Given the nature of dancemaking - it's common for choreographers to borrow and adapt moves from videos, classes and performances - there's no surefire mode of protection. However, if you plan to hire an outside choreographer, there are steps to take to ensure your own routine will be title-worthy in its own right.

Do Your Research

Before hiring choreographers, get to know their work. Watch routines they've choreographed and pay attention to styles, themes and songs they've already used, as well as for which teams they've worked and which categories their pieces are in. Universal Dance Association judge and freelance choreographer Sara Haley says it can be problematic for choreographers to work with numerous teams that compete against one another, because the teams' steps and stylizations may start to look the same. "Don't be afraid to confront the choreographer if you run across that problem," she advises.

Talk It Out

Hiring a choreographer you already know may seem like an easy solution, but business between friends can get tricky. NDA Director of Marketing Martha Selman suggests that before sealing a deal with any choreographer, have a frank conversation to clarify that after payment, the routine will be the sole property of the dance team. "The more clear and detailed you are in the beginning of your conversation, the less work you'll have to do at the back end," she explains.

Sign a Contract

One way to legally uphold the ownership of choreography is to sign a contract. Reiterate to your dancers that it's against team policy to share routines with others, and most importantly, hold the choreographer responsible should he or she attempt to sell the same routine. If you put all choreography agreements in writing, you decrease the odds of buying an unoriginal routine, hiring a choreographer who's stolen others' works, or risking that your dancers will pass off the team's choreography as their own.

The Consequences

So why is it so important to perform an original routine, or that others don't copy your numbers? According to Haley, judges notice when choreography is repeated, and they dock points for it. UDA's judge sheet indicates that choreography is worth 25 points (on a scale of 100). Also, if a judge is particularly angry at the offense, he or she could take off points in other categories as well. "Personally, I would deduct in difficulty, because it's way too easy to copy somebody's routine," says Haley. "I would [also] deduct in creativity and originality."

All About Respect

Docked points aside, copying choreography is as much of a sin in the dance world as plagiarizing a paper is in school. Ultimately, it comes down to respecting other people's creative and intellectual property. Towson's routines have obviously proven to be successful in capturing national titles; however, the dancers' skillful execution of the moves is just as important to winning as the choreography they're performing. "I feel worse for the team that's actually copying than for the team that gets copied," says Haley. "It's never going to be as good as the original." Many dancers and novice choreographers may not even realize the severity of stealing routines, but if they see you taking the matter seriously, they could follow suit.

Dance News
Photo by Jayme Thornton

Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.

Keep reading... Show less

Leap! National Dance Competition offers dancers of all skill levels an opportunity to showcase their talents in an event where the focus is on fun and competing is just a bonus!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer

Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
The School at Jacob's Pillow's contemporary program auditions (photo by Karli Cadel, courtesy Jacob's Pillow)

Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News

When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.

In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.

The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."

Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Leah Morrison in Trisha Brown's If You Couldn't See Me, in which the soloist never faces the audience (photo by Julia Cervantes, courtesy Trisha Brown Dance Company)

Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.

She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.

Keep reading... Show less
Blankenbuehler (far left) with the rest of the "Hamilton" creative team scontent-iad3-1.cdninstagram.com

So book your tickets to Tulsa already, people!

Keep reading... Show less
Your Body
Amanda LaCount showing off her skills (screenshot via YouTube)

There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.

Keep reading... Show less
Watch This
Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB

Mark your calendars, bunheads! On Monday, January 29th, at 2:45 PM (EST)/11:45 AM (PST), Pacific Northwest Ballet will be streaming a live rehearsal of Act II of Kent Stowell's Swan Lake.

Keep reading... Show less
Watch This
Tavaris Jones dancing with the Cleveland Cavaliers' Scream Team hip-hop crew

We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)

So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Want to Be on Our Cover?

covermodelsearch-image

Video

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Sponsored