Can You Copyright Dance Moves? 'Single Ladies', 'Formation' and 'WAP' Choreographer JaQuel Knight Made History Doing Just That

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Tonja Renée Stidhum
·2 min read
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JaQuel Knight attends the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards on August 20, 2018.
JaQuel Knight attends the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards on August 20, 2018.

You can’t hear the rhythmic “oh-oh-OH-oh-oh-OHHH-oh-oh-oh…” in Beyoncé’s hit single, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” without busting those now-iconic dance moves (heavily inspired by Bob Fosse), right? Well, you have one man to thank for that—JaQuel Knight.


Beyoncé “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) / Beyoncé (YouTube)

Recognizing the power of that longevity and visibility, Knight has made history as the first choreographer to copyright his dance moves. According to Variety, the choreographer behind Cardi B’s and Megan Thee Stallion’s hit “WAP,” Beyoncé’s “Formation” (today, April 23, is the fifth anniversary of the Lemonade album, by the way!), as well as Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s 2020 Super Bowl halftime show has also launched Knight Choreography and Music Publishing Inc., so that other creators can take advantage, too.

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“Copyrighting movement is about putting the power back in the artist’s hands,” Knight said in a statement. “We set a historic precedent with our ‘Single Ladies’ copyright achievement, and we are thrilled to be launching Knight Choreography & Music Publishing, Inc. so that the next generation of artists are afforded the same platform, resources and tools to thrive, creatively and financially, in the commercial music industry.”

Hailing from Atlanta, Knight has also worked with Britney Spears, Nicole Scherzinger, Rihanna and Tinashe. He also served as the creative director for Megan Thee Stallion’s virtual concert.

More info about the newly launched company, via Variety:

The company will operate in the same way a music publisher does where it will broker licensing deals and protect IP, except rather than copyright music, Knight Choreography & Music Publishing will oversee the rights to Knights dance moves.

Additionally, the company plans to represent rights for a diverse range of choreographers and creatives across all genres and mediums, acting as their strategic partner in copyright, licensing and beyond as they change the landscape of the protections for choreographers, creatives and artists in the commercial music industry.

Basically, if other individuals, companies and brands can eventually profit from the success of a viral sensation, the creators of those sensations should be able to legally protect their IP. Though, I am assuming “parody” will still be protected here.

This major move is not only historic, but it is very relevant in the age of TikTok and the controversy surrounding cultural appropriation and viral dance move theft. Recently, Jimmy Fallon and popular TikTok star Addison Rae came under fire for their segment teaching viral TikTok dance moves without crediting the original creators of the choreography. The Tonight Show host later tried to fix things by inviting the original creators onto a subsequent episode of the late-night show.

Overall, I’m looking forward to seeing how Knight’s new company evolves—and how rising Black creators can benefit!