Is it really so bad to copy moves you see other dancers doing? It happens all the time. And chances are, the person most known for doing the moves, didn't originate it.

I teach people moves which they then all know and which many of them then do. Obviously people do the same moves.

As for appropriating a relatively unique move, or one that as you say the person doing may not have originated, it depends on how associated the dancer is with the move. If they are well known for it, you'll just bore people by repeating it, or possibly pale by comparison. Same with music--if someone uses a piece of music outside the typical burlesque canon, and you also use it, it may not matter; or you may pale by comparison, or they may pale by comparison with you. Of course, it depends on uncountable factors that make each situation unique.

There is a frequent misunderstanding about this, however. A move can't be copyrighted, but choreography can, in the same way that a note can't be copyrighted, but a series of notes that make up a song can. Choreography is a repeatable series of moves. A champagne glass isn't a copyrightable prop idea, but a specific design of a champagne glass is.

Some areas are gray, some are not, but one thing is definitely clear: if you do a move associated with someone else, people may or may not feel contempt for you, but if they have seen a lot of burlesque and associate the move with someone else, they won't be thrilled when you do it; it becomes a "been there, seen that." If that's the effect a dancer wants to have on the audience, there's no reason why s/he should ever try to be inventive and original.

Here are some concepts in choreography and copyright:

And one thing we all know is that people come up with the same ideas independently of each other. But that's understood. Try googling "intellectual property," "proof of access," and "substantial similarity" to get a sense of concepts that address whether or not random inspiration is responsible for these coincidences in particular cases.

Ask me anything about Burlesque!


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