Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker is not flattered — nor angry — about claims that Beyoncé’s “Countdown” video pays unattributed homage to one of her clips.
“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,’ ” De Keersmaeker wrote in a statement on the Performance Club website on Monday.
Not long after the clip for B’s latest debuted, a number of websites pointed out the similarities between De Keersmaeker’s work and the steps in Beyoncé’s video . Before those side-by-side comparisons started popping up, the video’s director, Adria Petty, told MTV News it was an homage to such icons as Audrey Hepburn and the Supremes, as well as classic films such as “West Side Story” and “Funny Face.”
In it, Beyoncé not only shows her signature personality and spirit but also her emerging baby bump , and Petty said she presented the singer with a number of classic references, including some German modern-dance clips.
“Obviously,” De Keersmaeker continued, “Beyoncé, or the video clip director Adria Petty, plundered many bits of the integral scenes in the film … People asked me if I’m angry or honored. Neither. [O]n 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 [the] 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.”
Among the scenes juxtaposed in a popular online mash-up is one in which B is filmed through a window as her similarly dressed dancers cavort in the background, tugging on her shirt and hair in a fashion that is nearly identical to De Keersmaeker, who also sports a similar chopped-bangs look.
De Keersmaeker stressed that she’s not angry over the alleged appropriation, but she did wonder why it has taken mainstream pop culture 30 years to recognize her experimental dance work. “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,” she continued. “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.”
A spokesperson for Beyoncé could not be reached for comment at press time. But according to The New York Times, in a statement Beyoncé explained, “Clearly, the ballet ’Rosas danst Rosas’ was one of many references for my video ’Countdown.’ It was one of the inspirations used to bring the feel and look of the song to life … I was also paying tribute to the film ’Funny Face’ with the legendary Audrey Hepburn … My biggest inspirations were the ’60s, the ’70s, Brigitte Bardot, Andy Warhol, Twiggy and Diana Ross … I’ve always been fascinated by the way contemporary art uses different elements and references to produce something unique.”
Earlier this year at the Billboard Music Awards, Beyoncé was also accused of mimicking the choreography of a dance by Italian pop singer Lorella Cuccarini. Knowles later acknowledged being inspired by Cuccarini.
De Keersmaeker noted one other, more subtle similarity between her work and Beyoncé’s, one that may not be obvious to the casual side-by-side Web observer. While Beyoncé is around four months pregnant in her clip, De Keersmaeker said when she filmed her 1996 film, she was also pregnant, with her second child. “So, today, I can only wish her the same joy that my daughter brought me,” she wrote.