This essay is a response to the following prompt:
Can a person, group or culture own a dance?
Throughout time, humans have been obsessed with ownership, who has, and who dose not, and what they possess. While the concept of recognized physical property is as old as civilization idea ownership is a relatively recent concept, so now we reach the question; can anyone own a dance? Dance Cannot be owned by any one person,group, or culture because at the core of dace is evolution through influence.
While names are given to dances, that are named to honor the creator, not to give ownership to. ownership, as defined by Google, is the " act, state, or right of possessing something." Possession is then defined as "having or controlling something." In jazz and swing dance, the move Tacky Annie is named for a stripper named Annie, but is not owned by her, as generations of dancers have performed and built upon the move that holder her name. If it was truly Annie's move, denoting ownership, would mean she is in the continual act of controlling the move. But since generations of dancer have performed it and changed it, it is not just hers to control, and therefore now owned by Annie. This is also true with the Petipa pas de deux structure. While Petipa created the structure, he is not the sole proprietor nor the current implementing body. He is not controlling the structure now, and although he created the dance structure, he is not the owner.
In dance, people, groups, and cultures create, but do now own dance because in dance there is always an expectation for transmission, translation, and interpretation. For example, in African dance, dancers are referred to as griots, who alter dances slightly while still conveying the overall story. The evolution of the dance through lines of griots is important to to the development of their culture as a whole. The griots have created the dance, but as a conduit for the dance, not the copyright holder (Asante). In hip hop, (according to Mr. Wiggles, via Larry Southall) to be a hip hop dancer, you must create original moves. Contributing is an integral part of being a part of the community. This addition or alteration of the dances allows for the progression of the dance. If these dances were owned, they would not be changed, which would soon become boring and stagnant, unable to communicate with other people, groups, and cultures.
Dance has flourished with the prolific availability of digital media, allowing for the rapid and diverse dissemination of the body of dance knowledge. Now, everyone can share and edit, building on one another, allowing anyone to be a part of the dance discourse. This creates a "feedback loop" (Barnes) in dance. A person may know a style, and bring other elements of a different style, slightly altering the style, and progressing it. For example, Barnes took elements of breakdancing, and inserted it into her post modern dancing, to create an original synthesis of the two. These cross stylistic (fusion) and cross cultural exchanges are vital to keep up the evolution of dance vital to all people.
However, problem occur when cultural appropriation occurs. Cultural appropriation is defined as qualities curated by a minority culture, curated or cherry picked by a more powerful culture for specific characteristics. Thereby partially stripping a minority culture of its identity (Desmond). Dance frequently transmits cross culturally, but is only considered cultural appropriation when it is done without knowledge of, or respect and sensitivity towards. Diedie Skylar elaborates in her "5 Aspects of taking a culturally sensitive approach to dance" on the matter. Importantly, since dance is not owned by a culture, it can and should be spread cross culturally, problems arise when the origin or significance is not treated with the reverence due, or the correct people, groups, or cultures are not attributed. Then there is syncretism, "the amalgamation of different cultured, where two culture mix to create a third, new element, an important cross cultural transmission of dance knowledge. Dance is built upon, like science. While science describes "the incremental acquisition of knowledge through observation" (Tim Minchin), dance is the continual conversation of physical communication. Every concept is somehow built on the previous, knowingly or unknowingly, but we must do out best to note those who we are building upon and their origins.
In conclusions, a dance cannot be owned by any one culture, group or person, because a dance is not a thing to hold; it is sculpted by every body that moves through its motion. Creators are not copyright holders, because dance is meant to evolve.
Asante, Kariamu Welsh. "Commonalities in African Dance: An Aesthetic Foundation." Moving History / Dancing Cultures: A Dance History Reader. Ed. Ann Dils and Ann Cooper. Albright. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2001. 144-50. Print
Banes, Sally. "Introduction." Writing Dancing in the Age of Postmodernism. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 1994. Xi-Xv. Print.
Desmond, Jane C. "Embodying Difference: Issues in Dance and Culture Studies." Meaning in Motion: New Cultural Studies of Dance. Durham: Duke UP, 1997. 29-50. Print.
Gottschild, Brenda Dixon. "Stripping the Emperor: The Africanist Presence in American Concert Dance." Ed. Ann Dils and Ann Cooper. Albright. Moving History / Dancing Cultures: A Dance History Reader. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2001. 332-41. Print.
Asante, Kariamu Welsh. "Commonalities in African Dance: An Aesthetic Foundation." Moving History / Dancing Cultures: A Dance History Reader. Ed. Ann Dils and Ann Cooper. Albright. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2001. 144-50. Print.
McCarty, Shasta Daisy. "Appreciation, Appropriation, and Exploitation in Ethnic Dance." Zarifa's Touch of Egypt. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.