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BEYONCE VS ANNE T. DE KEERSMAEKER, The Dance Thinker, Issue #12
October 23, 2011

The Dance Thinker

Issue # 12, October 23, 2011



1. More pages in Spanish!



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1. More pages in Spanish!

For those of you who didn’t know, I started translating our website to Spanish a few weeks ago. So, here’s another important page that is already available:

Técnicas de la danza contemporánea

Remember that you can ask for the translation of a particular page, if you are interested. I’m always doing my best to make a pleasant home for all of us. Just send me a message through the contact form at the website or answer this e-mail to get in touch with me.



I guess almost all of you heard about this situation. I was aware of it through Facebook, thanks to the posts by Jerome Bel, to whom I’m grateful for his frequent great contributions.

This seemed so amazing to me, that I decided to continue spreading the word, because I believe that this is a good situation to motivate our questioning, both about the ideological and aesthetical positioning of contemporary dance and about its legal status.

In case you haven’t watch what I’m talking about yet, please have a glimpse first:

Beyoncé vs Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, video

Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker press declaration:

Like so many people, I was extremely surprised when I got a message through Facebook about the special appearance of my two choreographies – Rosas danst Rosas (1983) and Achterland (1990) in Beyoncé’s new videoclip Countdown. I was asked if I were now selling out Rosas into the commercial circuit...

When I saw the actual video, 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 by Thierry De Mey. Obviously, Beyoncé, or the video clip director Adria Petty, plundered many bits of the integral scenes in the film, which the videoclip made by Studio Brussel by juxtaposing Beyoncé’s video and the Rosas danst Rosas film gives a taste of. But this video clip is far from showing all materials that Beyoncé took from Rosas in Countdown. There are many movements taken from Achterland, but it is less visible because of the difference in aesthetics.

People asked me if I'm angry or honored. 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 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.

To conclude, this event didn't make me angry, on the contrary, it made me think a few things. Like, why does it take popular culture thirty years to recognize an experimental work of dance? A few months ago, I saw on Youtube a clip where schoolgirls in Flanders are dancing Rosas danst Rosas to the music of Like a Virgin by Madonna. And that was touching to see. But with global pop culture it is different; does this mean that thirty years is the time that it takes to recycle non-mainstream experimental performance?

And, 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.

Beyond resemblance there is also one funny coincidence. Everyone told me, she is dancing and she is four months pregnant. In 1996, when De Mey’s film was made, I was also pregnant with my second child. So, today, I can only wish her the same joy that my daughter brought me.

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker October 10th, 2011

I’ll make just another comment, but if you are interested, I recommend you to look for the thread at Jerome Bell’s Facebook page. There are a good variety of points of view there.


Have we all thought enough about the differences of social and economical status between the dance of the pop-culture and the experimental dance? What about the amazing amount of people who don’t understand that these two types of dance are different (and that is if they even know that experimental dance exists)?

It is strange to see an artist that has more money than she can spend, copying the work of others. What is going on? It seems that Beyoncé’s producers argue that they are using Keersmaeker moves as part of a planetary vocabulary. That’s fine and I agree with the idea that all art is made of recycling other’s works (we are all supposed to be part of one cultural process). But, why is it then that this situation generates such a viral impact among the community of experimental dance? Has Beyoncé exceeded the limits of what is considered ‘recycling’, ‘quoting’ or ‘reinterpreting’ aesthetical contents? Or do we, those from the ‘experimental’ side, believe that pop culture has no right to take from us, because for unsaid reasons that would not be faire?

I don’t think it took popular culture thirty years to recognize the experimental work of dance. Beyond that, it might rather be that pop producers used to think that the experimental proposals of dance were not financially profitable. Maybe that is why we might feel the unfairness. Are we maybe sustaining the idea that experimental art is poor, misunderstood or underestimated by the mass, compared to the famous pop artists? Or, is this a reality? Is this why now so many seem to be claiming for justice?

Pop producers hadn’t even cared about our existence till know. The weird thing is that they gave Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker a shot this time, which could be a sign of the current and gained visibility of contemporary dance. That would be one point for us…

But one thing is true: Beyoncé will probably make millions of dollars with her “Countdown”. Considering the big amount of content of that production that was originally created by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, she should receive a piece of the cake.

And just to mention another point… please allow me to express a personal feeling:

I completely agree with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker when she says that Beyoncé’s version is seductive in an entertaining and consumerist way. And it strikes me to see the amazing power of the aesthetical system of pop culture, which can transform the original force of Rosas danst Rosas into a pussy-like choreography… (Please don’t misunderstand me. I have nothing against ‘pussies’ and I also think that Beyoncé sings and dances very well. But, something inside the quiet feminist I am doesn’t stop telling me that the woman of pop aesthetics is definitely reduced to a pussy…).

So… Beyoncé vs Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker… what do YOU think?

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