Rant & Rave

Can Music Artists Stop Stealing from Choreographers Already?

What makes big-time music artists and their collaborators think they can directly plagiarize the work of concert dance choreographers?

And, no, this time we're not talking about Beyoncé.

Last Wednesday, country artist Kelsea Ballerini performed her song "Miss Me More" at the Country Music Awards. The choreography by Nick Florez and R.J. Durell—which Taste of Country said "stole the show" and Billboard lauded as "elaborate"—features a group of dancers in white shirts and black pants performing with chairs onstage, often arranged in a semicircle. They move in quick canons, throw their heads back, and fling themselves in and out of their chairs.


If you think this sounds like a description of the iconic "Echad Mi Yodea" sequence of Ohad Naharin's Minus 16, you're not wrong.

This is more than just choreographers drawing inspiration from a seminal dance work. It's directly copied:

Kelsea Ballerini's CMA Performance:

Ohad Naharin's Minus 16:

Did Ballerini realize that her choreography was plagiarized? Probably not. But still, she most likely knows about the issue now, and has not acknowledged it.

But the choreographers certainly knew what they were doing. Beyond the obvious issue of plagiarizing Naharin's work, it's insulting that choreographers hired for a major televised award show—an opportunity most artists can only ever dream about—used their platform to steal someone else's work.

If only this were a one-time fluke. But it's happened before, and will probably happen again. As Dance Magazine editor at large Wendy Perron pointed out when Beyoncé plagiarized Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker for her "Countdown" video, it almost feels as if the choreographers found a piece they liked on YouTube, and figured it was obscure enough that no one would notice if they copied it.

But Batsheva—Naharin's home company and the birthplace of Minus 16—is taking it all in stride, and using it as a marketing opportunity. A post on the company's Facebook page reads:

"Over the past few days, we have received many messages from friends about the extraordinary similarity between Kelsea Ballerini's CMA performance and Ohad Naharin's "Echad Mi Yodea." Come watch the real thing."

We couldn't agree more.

Broadway
Courtesy Macy's, Inc.

As you're prepping your Thanksgiving meal, why not throw in a dash of dance?

This year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is stuffed (pun intended) with performances from four stellar Broadway shows, the Radio City Rockettes and students from three New York City dance institutions.

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Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

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Rant & Rave
Sergei Polunin. Photo by British Broadcasting Corporation and Polunin Ltd., Courtesy Sundance Selects.

Last week, Variety reported that Sergei Polunin would reunite with the team behind Dancer for another documentary. "Where 'Dancer' looked at his whole life, family and influences," director Steven Cantor said, " 'Satori' will focus more squarely on his creative process as performer and, for the first time ever, choreographer." The title references a poorly received evening of work by the same name first presented by Polunin in 2017. (It recently toured to Moscow and St. Petersburg.)

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Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

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