When we first started out teaching dance at Ned Devine’s in Sterling, a group of girls came in and did this awesome dance to “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy”. The girls were not part of our usual crowd, but they came a few times and did their dance and eventually our dancers picked it up and continued it even after the girls stopped coming. It was a huge hit and ultimately I was asked to teach it. This wasn’t an unusual request or situation, so I did.
However, on the second or third time I taught the dance, a girl whom I’d only seen occasionally came up to me just mad as a hornet. She yelled (yes, literally yelled) at me for teaching someone else’s dance without their permission or giving credit to the choreographer. Well, I was dumbfounded. I had no idea who the choreographer was and we never announced that sort of info (note, this is before linedance4you.com or the posting of step sheets). She went on to clarify that the dance was created and performed by the Ashburn Dance team (or something to that effect) and that the dance was not meant to be taught. Well, my answer to that was “why did you come and demo it in a dance hall with fellow dancers and allow them to follow along with you then?”. This was the natural progression of dance evolution in our early days and it still is all over the world.
However, out of respect (and quite honestly because I don’t like being yelled at by strangers), I have ceased teaching that dance. It’s a shame though as it’s a great dance and we still do it from time to time, but thanks to this one person, it will eventually die out when it could have thrived and continued on for years with us.
Nowadays I note on the step sheets if I don’t know the choreographer and even have the following disclosure on my site:
“While we try to give credit when due, we cannot always locate the original choreographer or choreography of a dance. Additionally, some dances have become modified by virtue of personal styles & repetition or to assist beginners and it is noted on the step sheets if they differ from the original choreography (if known). Please contact me if one of your dance is listed here incorrectly.”
As a choreographer myself, I am thrilled to find out someone taught my dance and certainly don’t expect to be contacted before someone does so. I think it is the greatest compliment that someone would teach my dance and when I stumble upon it, I’m delighted. I know I contributed to the world of dance outside of just my dance students and that’s a great feeling. If any dance instructors care to teach any of my dances, you have my enthusiastic permission to teach it and even alter it somewhat for the sake of instruction if need be. All of my original dances are available at linedance4you.com or on Copperknob (search Danielle K. Schill). Enjoy!
So for any choreographers out there that want to keep your dances top secret or not have other people teach it, I would recommend just choreographing for your own private use and not putting out a step sheet or video or performing it in local dance halls because if you’re any good, it won’t stay private for long.
2 thoughts on “Imitation is not considered a form of flattery to some”
Hi Danielle, that is definitely a strange occurrence. I know it delights me no end to be idly flicking through a “What’s being taught” list and realise that one of my dances has made it there, and if you had to ask choreographers’ permission to teach their dances I don’t think we’d be doing half the dances we are (not to mention the choreographers would be getting annoyed at all the calls and emails just to ask if someone can teach something they wrote!) I can understand that things are different in the today’s online world, but if I’ve uploaded a sheet to Copperknob or a similar site I am giving implicit permission for anyone to take that sheet, teach the dance, and generally do whatever they like with it.
Thanks for the post, Chris. I’ll have to check out some of your dances as well! I think most choreographers thing along our lines, thank goodness! Happy dancing to you!