An avant-garde choreographer who has accused Beyoncé of plagiarising her dance moves for her latest video Countdown, has issued a statement suggesting that while the American “sings and dances very well”, her video is merely “pleasant” and “seductive in an entertaining, consumerist way”.
Anne-Teresa de Keersmaeker, the Belgian doyenne of contemporary dance, claims that Beyoncé draws deeply on two of her works: Rosas Danst Rosas (1983) and Achterland (1990), both of which have been filmed.
“I was struck by the resemblance of Beyoncé‘s clip not only with the movements from Rosas Danst Rosas, but also with the costumes, the set and even the shots from the film [of the work made in 1996] by Thierry De Mey,” said de Keersmaeker. “Obviously, Beyoncé, or the video clip director Adria Petty, plundered many bits of the integral scenes in the film.”
Petty has previously spoken about showing the singer footage of contemporary dance for inspiration. She told MTV: “I brought Beyoncé a number or references and we picked some out together. Most were German modern dance references, believe it or not.”
De Keersmaeker said: “People ask me if I’m angry or honoured. Neither. On the one hand, I am glad that Rosas Danst Rosas can perhaps reach a mass audience which such a dance performance could never achieve, despite its popularity in the dance world since the 1980s.
“And, Beyoncé is not the worst copycat, she sings and dances very well, and she has a good taste! On the other hand, there are protocols and consequences to such actions, and I can’t imagine she and her team are not aware of it.”
She added: “What does it say about the work of Rosas Danst Rosas? In the 1980s, this was seen as a statement of girl power, based on assuming a feminine stance on sexual expression.
“I was often asked then if it was feminist. Now that I see Beyoncé dancing it, I find it pleasant but I don’t see any edge to it. It’s seductive in an entertaining, consumerist way.”
De Keersmaeker, born in 1960, studied dance in Belgium and New York, and in 1983 created her own company, Rosas.
A major international figure in the world of contemporary dance, she is particularly associated with the music of American minimalist Steve Reich, and is known for her demanding, carefully composed experimental works.
Such appropriations are not always one-way. In 2010, British composer Mark-Antony Turnage’s new work Hammered Out was premiered at the BBC Proms. A passage, noted most of the audience, closely resembled Beyoncé’s song Single Ladies.
In a statement Beyoncé said: “Clearly, the ballet Rosas danst Rosas was one of many references for my video, Countdown. It was one of the inspirations used to bring the feel and look of the song to life. I was also paying tribute to the film Funny Face with the legendary Audrey Hepburn. My biggest inspirations were the 60s, the 70s, Brigitte Bardot, Andy Warhol, Twiggy and Diana Ross.
“Adria Petty, the co-director, showed me the contemporary ballet from almost 30 years ago. It was refreshing, interesting and timeless. I’ve always been fascinated by the way contemporary art uses different elements and references to produce something unique. The video already has close to 2m views so hopefully the fans will look at all the tributes and then discover Audrey Hepburn, Warhol, Bardot, Rosas Danst Rosas and all the works that inspired me and shaped this video.”
Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian