An Expanding Discussion: Copyright and Heritage in Dance

By Lucy Fandel
  • Marc Boivin speaking at the focus day on copyright and dance heritage / Photo by Ariane Dessaulles, Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault

On October 2, 2015, Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault (FJPP), an organization dedicated to preserving Québec’s contemporary dance heritage, brought together a diverse group of lawyers, arts advocates and performing arts professionals for a focus day on copyright and dance heritage. Sophie Préfontaine, a previous director of FJJP and a practising lawyer in intellectual property and the arts, and Xavier Inchauspé, a cultural worker in the performing arts with a background in law and philosophy, acted as mediators on the overwhelmingly large issue of intellectual property in dance. The conversation opened with lawyer Normand Tamaro’s affirmation that the fundamental aim of copyright is to protect the author: “Copyright is not an obstacle to creation, it is a right that allows creators to live,” says Tamaro. He further explained that the law must be applied in a way that reflects the reality of the contemporary creation process.

An essential principle of copyright is that ideas belong to everyone to use freely. The expression of those ideas (a distinction that is not always clear) makes a work unique and valorizes its authors. Dancer-choreographer Caroline Gravel and the performance art duo The Two Gullivers (Flutura & Besnik Haxhillari) spoke about the variety of definitions and practices of authorship. They emphasized the need for more equal conceptions of the role of choreographer and dancer.

The democratization of art, including collaborative access to ideas, process and archives, is an issue that panelists, including rehearsal director Sophie Michaud, Montréal choreographer Manon Oligny and choreographer-researcher Isabelle Van Grimde, all broached in their own ways. Van Grimde’s insights were drawn from her large-scale, shared authorship, interactive, multimedia project The Body in Question(s)2 . Michaud and Oligny’s approaches were oriented toward the in-studio exchanges between choreographer, dancer and rehearsal director – roles that often overlap. Ultimately, panelists agreed that, given the incredibly collaborative nature of most contemporary dance, there is a need for regular open discussions on issues of ownership at all stages of production and with people at all levels in their careers, from students to masters.

The day was held at the dance pavilion of the University of Québec in Montréal and concluded with the unveiling of Le testament artistique (The Artistic Legacy) guide for dance professionals. Written by Préfontaine, the guide was inspired by the creative reflections of Paul-André Fortier about his own artistic will and legacy.

Learn more >> fondation-jean-pierre-perreault.org

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