Let’s All Stop Complaining When Beyoncé Steals Dance Moves From YouTube

Over the weekend, new plagiarism charges were leveled at Beyoncé. This time, the Internet claims Bey ripped off bits for her new video “Countdown” from Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, a Belgian choreographer. The side-by-side video, above, is pretty conclusive, and Beyoncé’s co-director Adria Petty has already acknowledged the cribbing, admitting, “I brought Beyoncé a number of references and we picked some out together. Most were German” (note: she actually meant “from the much smaller country bordering Germany”) “modern-dance references, believe it or not. But it really evolved.” Here’s the thing, though: as Grantland has previously pointed out, the “Countdown” video is awesome. In fact, every time Beyoncé steals something, it’s awesome. So, with all due respect to intellectual property laws, do we really want her to stop stealing? Nothing less than our entertainment levels are at risk.

Consider the evidence: “Single Ladies” wouldn’t have existed if Beyoncé hadn’t felt comfortable borrowing from a Bob Fosse routine called “Mexican Breakfast.” Says Beyoncé, “It’s these three ladies, and one of them is Bob Fosse’s wife, and they’re doing ‘Walk it Out.’ They [switched] ‘Walk It Out’ [with] the music, it’s from like the sixties, and it’s one take… I thought, ‘wow, how amazing would that be now.’” The result, as millions of gay guys in leotards on YouTube and a drunk Kanye can attest, was one of the best videos of all time.

Then there was Beyonce’s Billboard Awards performance from earlier this year, which blew minds with its innovative screen backdrop and general intensity. A few days after that gig, it came to light that she’d stolen the whole performance from an Italian pop singer. Again, Beyoncé explained: “My makeup artist showed me the performance of Lorella Cuccarini a year ago, and it inspired me so much. I then met with the talented people who worked on it. The technology and concept were so genius. Thank god for YouTube or I would have never been exposed to something so inspiring. I never worked so hard on anything in my life as that performance for the Billboard Awards.” We’re glad you did, Beyoncé. It was really super.

But then there’s the case of the “Run the World (Girls)” video Once again, Beyoncé was inspired by something on YouTube, this time the Mozambique dance troupe Tofo Tofo. In an attempt to finally do right by her inspiration, Beyoncé had her people spend months tracking down Tofo Tofo and, with some help from the US Embassy, they hired the Mozambiquians to dance in the “World” video. The result? The worst Beyoncé video ever. Just think about what might have been if she’d “interpreted” Tofo Tofo’s style on her own.

So, sorry Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Lorella Cuccarini, and the ghost of Bob Fosse. You worked hard to create seemingly inimitable art, and it must certainly be disheartening when a huge pop star co-opts it for her own ends. But think about the greater good — when Beyoncé steals, awesome things happen for all of us. Let’s let Beyoncé steal.

Filed Under: Beyonce, Love and theft, Music

Amos Barshad has written for New York Magazine, Spin, GQ, XXL, and the Arkansas Times. He is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ AmosBarshad

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