Rant & Rave

Can Music Artists Stop Stealing from Choreographers Already?

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ohad Naharin's Minus 16. Photo by Pierre Wachholder via alvinailey.org

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.

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