Who owns the choreography?

lappo

Final Flight
Joined
Feb 12, 2016
I hope this has not been discussed before... who is the owner of the choreography? The choreographer who makes the program or the skater who pays for it?
If a choreography gets changed without the consent of the choreographer, can he/she do something about it or can he/she just express his/her disagreement?
It seems to me that FS choreographies are more subject to changes during the year than those of dance, probably for the most part the choreographer is aware that the initial program he/she envisioned will not be the same by March and it's just ok with it.
Do you have any examples of disagreement between choreographers and figure skaters/coaching teams?
Thanks in advance!
 

el henry

Fangirl of men’s spirals and split jumps
Record Breaker
Joined
Mar 3, 2014
I think this would be a matter of contract depending on the country of the skater and the choreographer.

I am not a copyright maven, but I believe in the US choreo would be a "work for hire". Once the skater pays the choreographer for his choreography, the skater owns the work and can adjust if they wish.

Given that the market for skating choreo is small, I cannot imagine that a choreographer who wants to continue in the field will announce their displeasure very publicly, but what do I know🤷‍♀️ There may be examples....
 

mrrice

Record Breaker
Joined
Jul 9, 2014
This has come up in the Dance World where I judge. Once Choreography is paid for, it belongs to the dancer. If the dance was popular, most judges and audiences have already seen it. There is a score for "Originality" and this is where a team would lose big time.
 
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kolyadafan2002

Fan of Kolyada
Final Flight
Joined
Jun 6, 2019
I hope this has not been discussed before... who is the owner of the choreography? The choreographer who makes the program or the skater who pays for it?
If a choreography gets changed without the consent of the choreographer, can he/she do something about it or can he/she just express his/her disagreement?
It seems to me that FS choreographies are more subject to changes during the year than those of dance, probably for the most part the choreographer is aware that the initial program he/she envisioned will not be the same by March and it's just ok with it.
Do you have any examples of disagreement between choreographers and figure skaters/coaching teams?
Thanks in advance!
Anybody can alter the choreograhy in any way. If seriously bad alternations occur the choreographer can ask for their name to be removed from the work.

You're paying for the choreographers time. Nothing else.
 

4everchan

Observer
Record Breaker
Joined
Mar 7, 2015
what do you mean by owning? choreo is not something you can take in your hands, wrap in a gift package and sent to grandma for christmas... let's say your little cousin makes a cover of a beatles song... who owns it? the beatles or the performer? they both do in some ways... but the difference is that an interpretation, owes already its performance to the choreographer or the composer (in my example)... there are tons of wonderful performances of rachmaninoff concertos...but there is no such performance if there is no composer
 

lappo

Final Flight
Joined
Feb 12, 2016
what do you mean by owning? choreo is not something you can take in your hands, wrap in a gift package and sent to grandma for christmas... let's say your little cousin makes a cover of a beatles song... who owns it? the beatles or the performer? they both do in some ways... but the difference is that an interpretation, owes already its performance to the choreographer or the composer (in my example)... there are tons of wonderful performances of rachmaninoff concertos...but there is no such performance if there is no composer
That's exactly why I was asking that question. As far as I know, the ownership of creative processes is clear in some fields (for example, a published article in an academic field is property of the writer, who must be credited whenever you take the article or part of it and reuse it to further your research). It is way less clear whenever there is no proper copyright rule in place; in the example you mentioned (the cousin and the Beatles cover) I think you can make the cover as far as the musician estate is fine with the use of the music, because they own the rights to the music (and they usually don't go after little cousins singing in their rooms). This is why we sometimes see skating videos without music (Prince programs are usually taken down) or skaters who have to change choreo because the musician would not license their music to be used in a different way than the one they envisaged (Kevin Reynolds and his Ni no Kuni aborted program some years ago).
In light of those issues, I simply asked whether anyone knew how it worked with an immaterial, non copyrighted creative process like choreography. I got the answer: the skater pays for the choreo, the skater owns it, not the choreographer.
Thanks to everyone who answered (without being condescending to us uneducated, second language speakers).
 

4everchan

Observer
Record Breaker
Joined
Mar 7, 2015
In light of those issues, I simply asked whether anyone knew how it worked with an immaterial, non copyrighted creative process like choreography. I got the answer: the skater pays for the choreo, the skater owns it, not the choreographer.
Thanks to everyone who answered (without being condescending to us uneducated, second language speakers).
well... yes and no... the skater paid for a choreography is exactly the same thing as a musician commissioning a piece to a composer or someone getting the copyright permission to use some materials... you referred to academic paper.... well, my dissertation was giving musical examples and for each one of them, i had to ask permission to the publishing company... thankfully, it was the same company for every single one of them... i will give you another example in music : let's say i commission a piece to a composer, in many usual contracts (conditions are variable from time to time) i would pay X amount of money and would get 1) first dibs at performing it, 2) exclusive performance and diffusion rights for one year, 3) first regards to perform it for X amount of time.. let's say 2 years... In other words, the money i have paid for will grant me an exclusive piece of music but after a certain amount of time, even if my name will always be associated with the piece, the composer can decide to do whatever they want with it, whether it is to publish it or to shelve it.

In figure skating, when a skater commissions (hires) a choreographer, there is a fee of course... and one may think that the skater owns the choreography... but i wouldn't say so... the reality is that once it's been performed and noticed, the said choreography is useless to others... for instance, jason brown paid x amount of money for riverdance choreo... well.. no other skater would really have any interest in performing the same choreography... so once it is created the monetary value of the choreography drops to 0. One cannot perform it again... I would think it's more like a custom made suit : it's made to fit you and only you.... once you are tired wearing it... nobody else can use it as it wouldn't fit you. However, let's say it was high fashion... from a famous designer... my idea is that during the time it's worn, people may associate the suit to the wearer first and the choreographer second... but in the end, it contributes to the designer's artistic output, its legacy.

So yes... Jason Brown's Riverdance remains his iconic program, but truly, how much does it remain one of Rohene Ward's "masterpieces"? I'd say that ownership here cannot be really expressed in the traditional terms...

A composer once said to me : thank you for playing this piece of mine... without people like you, I remain useless, as my pieces are pieces of paper, on bookshelves... I am grateful that you are making my music live...

I was shocked.. because I was so nervous to be playing the piece knowing the composer was in the hall. In some ways, performer and creator are partners here and one doesn't live without the other... However, the biggest difference here, and it's perhaps why some people do not credit choreographer more, it's that if a music composer can create without a performer/performance in mind, a choreographer will not choreo for nothing... I'd think that their work is almost always on commission (paid for)... whether they are the main choreo creating the program or someone who works in adapting it throughout the season, to allow the skater for better levels and results.


PS English is not my first language either.
 
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MCsAngel2

On the Ice
Joined
Apr 10, 2019
Country
Scotland
What if the choreographer you hired put in a couple of moves that he choreographed for himself and his partner back in the day, and has occasionally performed those moves in the years since?

Christopher Dean is pretty prolific as a choreographer these days. There's a move in Savchenko/Massot's OGM long program from 2018 that is from Torvill/Dean's 'Song of India' from 1984 (professional, not amateur) that they've also used in other routines here and there. I frequently recognize certain moves in routines he worked on.
 

4everchan

Observer
Record Breaker
Joined
Mar 7, 2015
like certain musicians who have their own sound... doesn't make a difference to me... it's like when watching Chan : we know when it's Lori Nichol's work and when it's not hers...

With Dean... well.. one could argue that Bruno and Aliona skated it better... executed it better... etc... it comes back to a piece of music... Beethoven wrote it but then.. who plays it better? In music nowadays, a lot of people use quotations from other composers... Even Charles Ives, from a long time ago, quoted Beethoven's 5th symphony in his Concord, Mass. Sonata (listen to the Alcotts, it's beautiful)

In other words, of course, a choreo has trademarks, which will live through the skaters... both owning their part of it, one the creation, the other the performance. That's why my first post was.. why the word owning? It's definitely not a material ownership.
 

gkelly

Record Breaker
Joined
Jul 26, 2003
I can't speak to the specifics of any contracts that may be signed between skaters and choreographers.

But I would say that the purpose of the choreography in a competitive program is to showcase the skills of the competitor who performs it. Technical skills, and also performance skills in ways that will earn higher PCS. The most effective competition choreographers would be those who can take each individual skater's existing skills and show them to best effect, and also challenge each skater to improve those existing skills and to expand their skill set even further, especially with younger skaters who are still developing their abilities.

And if a skater develops more technical skills during the season and is able to add a harder jump or an extra level feature to a spin, etc., that might require changing some details of the program as it was originally choreographed. Or if the skater is unable to master a step sequence or transitional sequence between elements as choreographed they may need to simplify or otherwise adapt the choreography to allow them to earn all the technical points they can.

Of course it's easier to make those changes if the technical coach is also the choreographer, or if the skater is able to work with the choreographer on a regular basis during the season. But if they live thousands of miles apart and were only able to get together once for purposes of setting the program in person, the coach may need to overrule the choreographer in order to achieve the competitive goals.

So the programs should be built primarily around different skaters' abilities and personalities rather than around the choreographer's ideas independent of who skates them.


In ice shows of various sorts (especially in group numbers, but also solos and duets that function as parts of a larger whole), the choreographer's vision would usually be primary and the skaters would be cast for their ability to fulfill it, on the other hand, often with different skaters filling the same role over the course of the show.
 

4everchan

Observer
Record Breaker
Joined
Mar 7, 2015
I can't speak to the specifics of any contracts that may be signed between skaters and choreographers.

But I would say that the purpose of the choreography in a competitive program is to showcase the skills of the competitor who performs it. Technical skills, and also performance skills in ways that will earn higher PCS. The most effective competition choreographers would be those who can take each individual skater's existing skills and show them to best effect, and also challenge each skater to improve those existing skills and to expand their skill set even further, especially with younger skaters who are still developing their abilities.

And if a skater develops more technical skills during the season and is able to add a harder jump or an extra level feature to a spin, etc., that might require changing some details of the program as it was originally choreographed. Or if the skater is unable to master a step sequence or transitional sequence between elements as choreographed they may need to simplify or otherwise adapt the choreography to allow them to earn all the technical points they can.

Of course it's easier to make those changes if the technical coach is also the choreographer, or if the skater is able to work with the choreographer on a regular basis during the season. But if they live thousands of miles apart and were only able to get together once for purposes of setting the program in person, the coach may need to overrule the choreographer in order to achieve the competitive goals.

So the programs should be built primarily around different skaters' abilities and personalities rather than around the choreographer's ideas independent of who skates them.


In ice shows of various sorts (especially in group numbers, but also solos and duets that function as parts of a larger whole), the choreographer's vision would usually be primary and the skaters would be cast for their ability to fulfill it, on the other hand, often with different skaters filling the same role over the course of the show.
well... here you are mostly covering one aspect of figure skating : the sport. In that sense, one could even argue that the choreo is only assembling required elements together... so let's call that choreo 101 or working choreography... for the sake of sport... but that's not the case when we consider the artistic side of figure skating... what makes a program iconic is not the sequencing and assembling of elements... there is something magic about the program... something special... something unique. The elements in such choreo do not even strike us as elements, but make one with the music. There are many examples of that but right now I think of Lane/Gilles/Poirier Starry Starry Night. Every moment was a moment of beauty and emotion. In the end who owns it? I feel as an audience member that I do ;) because it was given to me...I received that precious gift... i was touched by the emotion... and for that, I thank the choreographer who went beyond the sport to create art.. and the skaters, who went beyond being athletes to transcend the music and choreography into something that will never be forgotten.
 
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