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(Il)legitimate performance: copying, authorship, and the canon

Dimitrakopoulou, S. (2016). (Il)legitimate performance: copying, authorship, and the canon. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance)


This project explores the practice of copying as a choreographic methodology raising the issue of illegitimacy despite the use of copying by choreographers for the creation of their works. Thus, my intention is to shed more light on various aspects regarding the practice of copying in order to provide a study and initiate a discussion around this issue.

In total this project:
• Situates and contextualises copying as a methodology within dance and performance discourses.
• Identifies and examines the reasons that induced its disavowal as a legitimate choreographic methodology.
• Provides a study in copying as a choreographic methodology both through the creation and analysis of new work as well as through the discussion of other artists’ pre-existing works.
• Discusses the role of copying in relation to the establishment of the choreographer as author and to the inclusion of choreographic works in the dance canon.
• Unravels the ‘modes’ and ‘networks’ produced through the creation of choreographic works that use copying as a methodology.
• Unpicks the values that copying as a methodology puts forth.

As practice-based research, this project exists both in a written thesis and in artistic practice. The practice includes the production of original video works, included here in the DVDs as well as the presentation of performances, the documentation of which is presented in the appendices.

In support of my practice-based PhD research I submit a written thesis and three pieces of work. The thesis is developed in four chapters:

1) The first chapter touches upon theoretical concepts relating to the analysis of the practice. Thus, it aims to provide a theoretical context of concepts and terms that are later used for the analysis and the discussion of the works in the other three chapters. The main three subject areas discussed here are: copying, the author function and the canon. These constitute the main topics for the next three chapters. In the first chapter, the topics discussed are copying as a creative tool in dance and the issue of copyrights, the emergence of the choreographer as author and the writing of history. The analysis of the practical works is discussed separately in chapters 2, 3 and 4.

2) The second chapter discusses copying as a methodology asking which are the values expressed through copying. Acknowledging the rising importance of video and copying mechanisms proposes copying-via-video as a tool of access to knowledge and looks further into the potentials of this methodology. It also proposes the idea of the ‘poor copy’ to discuss the values that this methodology puts forth. The main works discussed here are: Rosas danst Rosas (1997) by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Repeat After Me (2008) by Martin Nachbar and Frauen danst Frauen (2011) by Stella Dimitrakopoulou.

3) Acknowledging copying as an integral part for the creation of a signature, the third chapter discusses whether it can also become a tool for its rupture. Here copying is proposed as a useful tool in a contemporary choreographers toolbox to disrupt a choreographer’s status as author-genius. More specifically, remix is discussed as a creative methodology and a critical tool that leads to authorship as a mode of performance within an artistic network. The main works discussed are: The last performance (a lecture) (2004) by Jérôme Bel and The last lecture (a performance) (2011/2016) by Stella Dimitrakopoulou.

4) Having linked copying to the creation of value, to the circulation of dance works within the market and to canonisation; the fourth chapter questions whether copying can also be a tool for the rupture of the canon. Copying is an integral methodology for the formation of a canon, therefore also for the legitimisation of a work. Through the works Trio A (1966) by Yvonne Rainer and without respect but with love (2012 / 2015) by Stella Dimitrakopoulou, this chapter examines how copying, as part of an illegitimate process, influences the formation of a canon and the attribution of values to propose copying as act of love.

Generally it is argued that copying is not a methodology that produces illegitimate artworks but rather that ‘(il)legitimacy’ is a status externally attributed to an artwork, depending on its position within a historical and artistic context.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Dimitrakopoulou, Styliani.pdf]
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[thumbnail of Frauen danst Frauen] Video - Accepted Version
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