Renowned and respected choreographer JaQuel Knight (of “Single Ladies” fame, among other things) is helping ensure that BIPOC choreographers not only receive credit for their work, but have the legal means to demand credit (and compensation) when their works are infringed. Last week, Mr. Knight announced that he—alongside Logitech—took a large step (leap!) forward in their efforts to secure copyright registrations for ten viral TikTok and other dances, all created by BIPOC choreographers. Among the first to be registered was #SavageChallengeDance, choreographed by Keara Wilson; Salute a Legend, choreographed by Chloe Arnold for the Syncopated Ladies (pictured below), and Savage Remix, choreographed by the Nae Nae Twins.
For a work to be eligible for copyright protection, it must be fixed in a tangible medium (among other things). Recording a dance on a smart phone can satisfy this requirement, but Mr. Knight took it one step further and had each of the words recorded in Labanotation, a notation system akin to musical notation, but for the human body. Though it is considered by many to be a more complete record of movement than written notes or even a two-dimensional video, Labanotation also is often cost-prohibitive for under- and unpaid choreographers. It requires using the highly specific Labanotation system to record not only the placement of each of a dancer’s body parts during each moment of the choreography (yes, including all of those small movements tappers make with their feet), but other facets of the movement (direction, level, speed, weight, etc) as well the relationship of the dancers to each other and to space. This is much simpler for a solo, 30-second TikTok work than it is for an ensemble work, but regardless of the nature of the work, it still complex enough to be out of reach for artists who often make little to no money. By commissioning Labanotated scores, Mr. Knight has given another stamp of credibility to BIPOC TikTok and other creators whose artistry is often not properly recognized, credited, or compensated.