Choreographers rarely get the recognition they deserve. The Tony Awards, for example, presents the award for Best Choreography during the Creative Arts Awards portion of the show, which usually isn't televised. In the final credits of the 2016 film La La Land, choreographer Mandy Moore was only recognized after 15 other members of the creative team. And on TikTok, the video-sharing app where dance crazes reign supreme, creators of even the most viral dances often aren't credited for their moves.
But while big-time choreographers for film and theater are at least compensated for their work and protected by unions, dancers on TikTok are often only up-and-coming creators, so when they aren't credited for their choreography–especially when it goes viral–they don't just lose out on recognition; they lose out on opportunity.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, TikToker Bryan Sanon, who created the 100 Racks Challenge, explains the importance of giving credit where it is due. "People have made [dancing on the app] a business, so give the dance credit," Sanon said to BuzzFeed. "It's like you make something and it comes from you and your soul or your brain, and someone else who is more popular or in a different position takes it and you don't get recognized for it."
The creators that Sanon says are in a "different position" are often white, rich—have you seen Charli D'Amelio's house? (See: her sister Dixie's "Be Happy" video)—and mega-popular, with followings in the millions. But the choreographers who create the dances, including Sanon and others, like Keara Wilson (who created the "Savage" dance) and Jalaiah Harmon (who created the now-iconic "Renegade" dance) often don't achieve the same level of popularity. These underpraised creators, also, tend to be Black.
##duet with @qgriggs love everyone showing love to my challenge <3 I would appreciate the big content creators to give credit tho !♬ 100rackschallenge bryansanon - bryansanon
It's no surprise that many of the most viral dances on TikTok are choreographed by Black creators. The success of the app seems to hinge largely on aspects of Black American culture. The most famous TikTok creators' accounts regularly include lip-syncs and dances to hip hop, trap, and R&B music; the most viral dances are more social than exact—reminiscent of the vibes at your typical Black family reunion; and there seems to be a uniform among the most popular women on the app: Nike Air Force 1 sneakers, cropped tops, and stiletto nails, the sum of which evokes the aesthetics of the beautiful Black women who live in culturally-rich urban neighborhoods.
When you don't credit a choreographer on TikTok, especially one of color, you not only rob them of the opportunity to capitalize on the attention their dance is getting, but you also, whether inadvertently or not, whitewash the history and context of the choreography. To avoid making these costly mistakes, here are ways to credit the creators whose dance moves you see and replicate on the app.
##duet with @jadagomillion no cap need more folks like this on the app love it ✊🏾🖤♬ 100rackschallenge bryansanon - bryansanon
Tag the Creator
This first option is really nonnegotiable, and it's the most efficient way to give credit to a choreographer. In the caption of your TikTok video, tag the original creator using their TikTok handle so that their account is easily accessible to others. Put "dc:" (meaning "dance credit") before the tag, so viewers know exactly why you're tagging that person. If you don't know who to give credit to, type the song that accompanies the dance in the search bar on the app. Under the category "Sounds," click the first music option that the search generates. If the song and dance are popular, you'll likely see a mosaic of dance videos, but usually, the creator of the dance is the first result to come up (in the top left-hand corner).
Duet With the Creator
"Duet-ing" on TikTok—where you and another creator appear on either side of a split screen and perform a prank, skit or dance together—can be super-fun to do with friends. But it can also be a powerful way to not only credit a choreographer, but also amplify their artistic voice by exposing a larger audience to the way they move. This option requires very little work: First, find the video of the creator performing their dance. On that video, click the "Share" icon, then hit "Duet." Then, record yourself dancing side by side with the creator. It's as easy as that. But remember: No matter what, you should always tag the creator in the caption of your video.