JaQuel Knight, the choreographer behind Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion’s popular music videos, collaborated with Switzerland-based company Logitech to help ten BIPOC creators secure copyright for their choreography of popular dance trends on social media platforms like TikTok.
As part of Logitech’s #Creators4BIPOC month, a movement that addresses barriers BIPOC face as content creators, the tech brand announced the initiative last week highlight the work of Black creators who originate the dances that trend on social media, according to a news release. The announcement comes in light of the recent Black TikTok strike where Black creators on the social media app abstained from creating new trends to prove their importance to the culture.
Once registered, choreographers can receive payment if their choreography is used in feature films, commercials or video games, according to the news release.This is important in the world of dance as it allows choreographers to be credited and rewarded monetarily for their work, putting the power in the creator’s hands, the release said.
“The JK Foundation was ultimately started to provide a place of support for dancers (during an extremely fragile time in the pandemic, nonetheless), and to put the power back in the artists’ hands – not just for myself, but for the next JaQuel Knight,” Knight said in a news release.
The first six creators who are in the process of getting their work copyrighted are Keara Wilson, the creator of the “Savage” dance; Young Deji, the creator of “The Woah” dance; Fullout Cortland, choreographer of Doja Cat’s “Say So” performance at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards; the Nae Nae Twins, creator of the “Savage Remix” dance; Chloe Arnold for her choreography of “Salute A Legend” for Syncopated Ladies; and Mya Johnson and Chris Cotter, creators of the “Up” dance.
The team also announced a new short film that documents a group of creators working to copyright their choreography.
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The initiative under Logitech For Creators, a business under the technology manufacturing company dedicated to amplifying online creators, began out of a conversation with Knight. Meridith Rojas, Global Head of Entertainment and Creator Marketing for Logitech For Creators, said she saw an article about Knight’s journey copyrighting his work and wanted to learn more. The connection soon became a business venture that would help online creators copyright their work as he did.
“There’s just this authentic wave of creativity due to technology, due to these platforms like Tiktok, that are enabling so many people around the world to follow their dreams, Rojas said. “And there’s no reason that one artist should protect their work and another artist should not.”
They want to help give credit where credit is due, Rojas said. Logitech invited the creators to the ceremony, saying it was a night dedicated to Knight.
Instead, they were surprised to learn that Logitech and the JaQuel Knight Foundation took the first step in helping them copyright their work: submitting their choreography for registration with the United States Copyright Office.
Copyrighting choreography is not an easy task. To copyright movement, it must be “fixed,” according to the United States Copyright Office. Fixed mediums for choreography include video recordings, photographs or drawing and dance notation such as labanotation.
Knight previously worked on copyrighting his work with the Dance Notation Bureau, including his choreography for Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” music video. He became the first commercial choreographer in pop music to succeed in copyrighting his work, according to Billboard.
Knight primarily worked with Lynne Weber, the executive director of the Dance Notation Bureau, to put his work into labanotation. The notation system developed by dance theorist Rudolf Laban and documents movement through symbols on a staff that can describe various aspects of the movement.
“The notation allows you to separate the dance from the performer,” Weber said. “You’re really getting the essence of the dance as opposed to a particular performance.”
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Weber shared that creating notation through videos like TikTok can be challenging because it requires replaying the video repeatedly to get a full understanding of the choreographer’s style and technique. In the end, the process of copyrighting helps choreographers protect their work, Weber said.
“We really believe in the choreographers and the dances, and we want them also to be captured for history,” Weber said. “They’re important for our culture. And he’s [Knight] helping that process.”