So You Think You Can Steal My Dance?

UC Riverside professor publishes new book about copyrighting choreography

Choreographing Copyright: Race, Gender and Intellectual Property Rights in American Dance by Anthea Kraut

Choreographing Copyright: Race, Gender and Intellectual Property Rights in American Dance by Anthea Kraut

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – Anthea Kraut, an associate professor in the Department of Dance at the University of California, Riverside, has written a new book, “Choreographing Copyright: Race, Gender and Intellectual Property Rights in American Dance,” that will be released on Nov. 2.

In 2011, a minor Internet controversy erupted when it was discovered that pop music star Beyoncé’s music video “Countdown” borrowed portions of choreography from the Belgian avant-garde artist Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Kraut’s book provides a historical context for this and other skirmishes over intellectual property rights in dance and teases apart their entanglement with questions of race and gender.

Although U.S. federal copyright law did not officially recognize choreographic works as a protectable class until 1976, dancers’ attempts to secure intellectual property rights for themselves began at least eight decades earlier. “Choreographing Copyright” traces those efforts, arguing that dancers embraced intellectual property rights as a means to both firm up and challenge existing power structures, including those of race and gender.

Anthea Kraut

Anthea Kraut

“Some of the dancers who advocated for copyright protection – such as Loïe Fuller, Hanya Holm, Agnes de Mille, Martha Graham, and George Balanchine – are well-known in the history of American dance,” said Kraut. “But I also introduce a number of marginalized figures, from the South Asian dancer Mohammed Ismail, to the African American pantomimist Johnny Hudgins, to the white burlesque dancer Faith Dane, who were equally interested in positioning themselves as the owners of their dances, rather than as things to be owned.”

Drawing on critical race and feminist theories and on cultural studies of copyright, Kraut offers fresh insight into the power dynamics of authorship and ownership in dance in the United States from the late 19th century to the early 21st century.

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Anthea Kraut
E-mail: anthea.kraut@ucr.edu

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