Choreographing Copyright: Race, Gender, and Intellectual Property Rights in American Dance


ACLS Fellowship Program




Though US law denied copyright protection to choreography as such until 1976, attempts to win intellectual property rights for dance began at least eight decades prior to that. This project tracks these attempts through a series of case studies, focusing on the white female dancers who spearheaded the most conspicuous campaigns for choreographic copyright, as well as on the lesser-known, non-white artists who claimed ownership of their dances. Copyright, the study argues, has served as an important but complicated site for dancers trying to negotiate their raced, gendered, and artistic status. The project thus deepens our understanding of how axes of difference have structured the landscape of dance and the terrain of intellectual property rights in a US context.