JaQuel Knight, the choreographer of Beyonce’s iconic “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” dance routine, is making history again. In July 2020, the Atlanta-born dancer achieved the notable feat of getting the popular routine copyrighted, and now he is creating a company to help other dancers protect their craft, reported Variety.
In a quest to make sure other artists are afforded the platforms and financial benefits of their creativity in the commercial music industry, JaQuel is set to launch Knight Choreography & Music Publishing, Inc., “With influencers and digital talent earning top dollar to do dances or create content that has already been created, it’s important that the history of that dance is considered as a factor,” he said.
Knight is not wrong in his opinion. Over the past few years, viral dance crazes on platforms like Instagram and TikTok have taken Black artistry to new levels. For choreographers who mostly perform on social media, the loss of ownership is palpable.
Often, the creators are Black, but non-Black influencers are paid well to take center stage and copy what they’ve seen. Many of those influencers are white. For example, Addison Rae was rejected from her college dance team before she skyrocketed to TikTok fame by performing dances created by choreographers of color.
Knight’s publishing company will function as a music publishing company does. It will broker licensing deals, protect intellectual property and oversee the rights to dance moves.
The dance protégé has a long list of credits. Not only is he Beyonce’s go-to choreographer, but Knight also choreographed J.Lo and Shakira’s halftime show at last year’s Super Bowl. He lent his talent to the hip-rolling moves in Cardi B. and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” video. And lastly, the talented dancer served as the creative director for Megan Thee Stallion’s virtual concert. He also won two MTV Awards for Beyonce’s “Formation” video.
Knight’s genius doesn’t only extend to the dance floor. Although United States copyright law can help dancers protect their work, most never consider it. Robert Kasunic of the U.S. Copyright Office noted that of the 500,000 applications that the office receives each year, only about 20 are for choreography.
In 2020, The JaQuel Knight Dancers Relief Fund was launched to provide dancers and other artists with grants and meals due to the harsh impact of the pandemic on those lines of work. In 2021, his foundation began the application process for the Passion Project Grant that will offer multiple $6,000 grants to creatives to work on their dreams.
“As a kid, I wanted something different than my peers; I did not want to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a firefighter even. My hope is that through The JaQuel Knight Foundation, I can continue to empower the kid who also wants to be something different,” he said.