By Caroline Joan S. Picart
The trouble to win federal safeguard for dance within the usa was once a racialized and gendered contest. Picart strains the evolution of choreographic works from being federally non-copyrightable to turning into a class almost certainly copyrightable below the 1976 Copyright Act, particularly analyzing Loíe Fuller, George Balanchine, and Martha Graham.
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Extra info for Critical Race Theory and Copyright in American Dance: Whiteness as Status Property
Starting at a very young age, ballet dancers spend hours practicing, drenched in sweat, muscles pushed to their limit, with the ever-present danger of injury looming (or lived with) as they strain to partner seamlessly. Yet during the performance, the audience colludes in the effort to preserve the aesthetic illusion, politely ignoring any inadvertent sound of footfalls. 24 An anecdote about one of Balanchine’s classes illustrates the premium Balanchine placed on this component of a balletic aesthetic.
Part of the reason why imagining a counterpoint to Balanchine’s vision is important is that especially given the history of copyright in relation to choreography, no such correlate existed, particularly during the time period when this template was being forged. My use of Cohen Bull’s schema is thus partly rhetorical, partly imagined—set up to visualize what Nietzsche would call Aesthetics of Whiteness and Nonwhiteness 33 one possible “healthy” and “nonreactive” counterpoint to the dominant paradigm.
I realize, of course, in following Cohen Bull’s lead, I face the Scylla and Charybdis of anyone who attempts this kind of work: that of appearing to either essentialize all African dance, thus losing essential specificities that characterize African dances, or just as badly, and perhaps essentially the same thing as the prior danger, to elevate Ghanaian dance, one specific regional type of African dance, into some kind of universal paradigm of all things African. None of these, of course, I intend to do.