It seems as though the artistic community must have the same discussion every few years (and presumably will continue to do so ad infinitum) – where do we draw the line between inspiration and theft? Every so often a song will top the charts or a video will go viral that prompts us to ask what may have inspired it. These conversations are happening on the local and national levels, and never seem to come to a satisfying conclusion. An artist can win a case saying that what some call “inspiration” others call “copyright infringement,” but where does that leave us after the settlement? However it may have been born, that art is now alive and out in the world, affecting moods and sometimes effecting change.
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker entered the conversation a few years ago. A prolific and stimulating dancer and choreographer, De Keersmaeker has been active in her work since the early 80s, and received numerous international accolades. One work in particular, Rosas danst Rosas (1983), is one of her more well-known pieces, winning a Bessie award for choreography in 1987.
Well-known enough, in fact, that it would appear somebody in Beyoncé’s creative team was “inspired” by it. According to De Keersmaeker, Beyoncé and director Adria Petty lifted moves, costumes and staging from Rosas danst Rosas as well as elements from 1990’s Achterland. “I’m not mad, but this is plagiarism,” Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker told Studio Brussel in an interview. “What’s rude about it is that they don’t even bother about hiding it.” After the news hit, the Queen Bey and her creative team admitted to being “inspired” by De Keersmaeker’s work.
What was impressive was De Keersmaeker’s follow-up in 2013. She could have been litigious, but instead she decided to open up the conversation to everyone. In celebration of the work’s 30th anniversary, De Keersmaeker uploaded a series of videos on her website that allow a viewer to learn part of Rosas Danst Rosas, and invited all of us to film our performances and upload them. Thousands of people, of all ages and from all over the world, have taken her up on the offer. A trailer for this “remix” features little children, pregnant women, even teenage girls in their school yard in India. What started as a statement on theft turned into a dialogue on the right to participate in art. Sometimes participation is simply spectating, holding a space for it to occur. Sometimes it means imitating a style. In this case, however, it meant teaching the process to the world.
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is here with Rosas, her company, for a four-night extravaganza of different works—including Rosas danst Rosas on November 12th. We would love for you, as a part of our community, to learn the compelling movements and film the outcome to share in a similar “remix” video. The onus is on all of us now here at UCLA to participate in this international dialogue on who can perform and take ownership of somebody else’s artistic creation. We invite you to speak with us.
Visit http://cap.ucla.edu/calendar/details/rosas_remix for the full details.