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Downtown Dancer » Blog Archive » Rosalynde LeBlanc’s Primal Scream

Rosalynde LeBlanc’s Primal Scream

Run, don’t walk, and pick up the December 2005 issue of Dance Magazine. Its not online yet so I can’t link to it but trust me. In it, there is a brilliant essay on the frustration of a successful modern dancer, one who has worked with Bill T. Jones, White Oak, Trisha Brown, and Lawrence Goldhuber, just to name a few. Read about what its like to be a female dancer in her 30s looking to mature personally while maintaining a dance career. Read how she joins a long line of concert dancers who turn to Broadway to try and earn some real money without being part of an ever-touring modern dance company. Read about how when she was worried that some of her modern dance commitments could conflict with her joining a union she was told that the concerts weren’t even a blip on the radar which in one fell swoop deligitimized her, my, and your careers. Read about the personal struggle of her finally trying to make some money off of her technical skill while being begged not to give up on her art. Read, read, read and then…then…well, that’s really the problem now, isn’t it?

November 27, 2005 |


9 Responses to “Rosalynde LeBlanc’s Primal Scream”

  1. Germaul Barnes Says:

    I will love to read the artical. I might share the same views about the dance world as Ms. LeBlanc. At the sametime i have changed hats (dancer to director). I now realize even more how dance directors feel and what they most go through to become successful.

    I will first read and get back to you


    Germaul Barnes/ Artistic Director of Viewsic Expressions

  2. robin prichard Says:

    I want to comment on a side issue the article brings up: the copyright issues of LeBlanc’s image being used for commercial purposes on the bottle of wine. The photographer who took the photo of LeBlanc is either lying or egregiously mistaken: US copyright laws do not allow “inspiration” as a valid exception to copyright infringement. The fact is, the painter created a derivative work from the original work: this requires copyright permission. Grand rights, to be exact. Grand rights are the pesky reason it is so difficult to get copyright permission for the music we use for choreography: it is considered making a derivative work from a previous work of the art (the music). (There is an exception for this - parody is considered a valid use of pre-existing work. “Inspiration,” however, falls under clear copyright infringement. )

    So tell me, why should we pay for grand rights for music and not enforce copyright on our own likenesses? Artists, we need to get much more savvy about these issues. Of course, whether or not LeBlanc is eligible for compensation depends on how many of her rights she signed away to the photographer. If she signed a blanket release statement, the photographer can do anything he wishes with the photo. However, if she was savvy enough to retain her rights, then the photographer should’ve secured her release before selling (or maybe in this case, giving away) the image. Either way, the company who has used her image is liable for copyright infringement - particularly since it is for commercial uses. And at $200 a bottle, LeBlanc could possibly be in for a big settlement. (Well, substanial for a modern dancer anyway.) I would urge LeBlanc to contact the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts to talk to a copyright expert to see if she has any recourse. If anyone knows how to contact her, please let her know this.

    So, let this be a lesson to dancers: don’t sign away your rights to photographers! You can always negotiate a limited release for certain circumstances, but signing away your rights can come back to haunt you if someone else ends up making a pile on your image. Dancers work too hard to cultivate the skills that make these photographs compelling to let someone else have complete artistic and financial control over them.

  3. Rachel Feinerman Says:

    I don’t have the article in front of me but I thought the photographer wasn’t receiving any royalties either. That because the painter was inspired by the photo and did not make an actual reproduction that somehow that wasn’t infringing upon copyright. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  4. Cecly Says:

    I read your article in Dance Magazine- and i loved it!!
    I too am a 30 year old modern dancer struggling to make everything fit. However, i have never enjoyed the success you have- dancing for such amazing companies- and that is where my biggest frustruation lies these days.
    I’ve struggled with the decision of quitting, and the guilt of feeling like a non-dancer for working 8 hours a day. I have found a way to balance things of late, but it took many years and things are still not perfect.
    I dont think you are quitting at all for wanting to find ways to make more money and have a family. Whatever our feelings are about money, the fact is that it is necessary to survive- and not just some of it, but in this day and age and this area of the country, quite a bit of it!
    And i’ve found that in order to be able to pursue this art we love, we have to be able to take care of ourselves first, or else no amount of passion and love will keep us going. My boyfriend used to always tell me, that by stabilizing one area of my life more, i may find more energy and resources to devote to my art. So far, i am finding he was right.
    But it is a really tough balance to find. And precarious.
    I do have a question for you, since you are battling the question yourself of how to measure success. I have been feeling badly lately because i have never danced in a highly exposed or credited company, and must face that I may never. Should i be feeling so unsuccessful and should that be a reason for me to consider quitting (which deep down i know i won’t do.)
    Also- i found the ending of your article,when you talk about the beauty and singularity of modern dance, about how it requires it’s partakers to retain a sense of youth and inspiration- so poetic and beautiful! It inspired me greatly and gave me resiliance and hope. I am going to make copies of it for the 6 other dancers in my company- we can all benefit from sharing it.
    Thank you so much for writing it!

  5. Susanna E. Says:

    It’s amazing what you can find on the internet. Beautifully written article! I’m now a 30 something environmental nonprofit employee, with dancing in my heart, but not body. It is truly amazing, the similarities that exisit between us so many years later. I still haven’t figured out why my passion for the field of work I found doesn’t pay the bills either. Inspiration comes free, but when I meet people without it, it seems like it should be SO valuable. I’m happy we both got ours. Look me up— and thank you!

  6. Torrin BTJ/AZ Alumni 96 Says:

    What happens when we stop? We never stop dancing Roz. Rob was right to encourage you to remain in the field: As the person who convinced you that you could get into Bill’s company; I offer this – you will know when it is time to transcend the stage and subvert its boundaries. When you do find me, we can have a conversation about the future. The scariest day, is the day that you decide that you will not return to the confines of the fourth wall – until “you� want to, not when it calls you and baits you with famine.



  7. Andrea Says:


    You and I went to college together and I have run into you a few times in class, and now it is very poignant to read your writings. I have often wondered how the most sucessful in the dance world have perceived their own worth on a financial level. I know of a businesman who has begun to build Trusts for visual artists that would compensate them each time their name or image was used for profit, very similar to what the music industry has attempted to do with ASCAP. Would their be such a possiblity for a dancer to make residuals on their image? How could this add to the financial future of a performing artist? Who will begin this process…the company for it’s own artists or the artist? These are all questions that come up as my husband turns on a baseball game and discussion of salaries is tossed about. No dancer decides to dance for the money, yet must choosing to dance be a decision to also remain poor by today’s standards?

    I have no answers. I realized long ago that I was not able to make as full time a commitment to being a career dancer as I would have liked. For practical and emotional reasons, I have found a related career that takes up at least 55 hours of my time each week. This gives me just enough freedom to take class and maybe perform in something small every now and then, while I still have the energy to balance it all. My big fear is of letting go completely….of somehow being forced into forgetting that I am dancer, that I am creative as life grows more complicated.

  8. Roz Says:

    Hello all!
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for the time you’ve taken to read, consider and write about this article. I can’t tell you the sense of profound satisfaction I’ve gotten from this entire experience, from conception until now. I hope to continue writing about the joys and tortures of being a dancer. It is rich in exhiliration and devastation but either way, it is rich.
    To Cecly: I think success ultimately is such a personal definition. There are those who have a wall full of performance photos from all over the world who are still searching for a sense of self-fulfillment, or success. I once caught the last line of a PBS documentary about actors, and one man was saying, “It’s better to be an actor in Kansas than a waiter in New York.” Ever since hearing that tidbit, I have thought that if the dance is vital to me, then sucess is making the dance happen wherever it can. If you consider joy, creation, dedication as a measure of success, and dance brings those things into your life, then you are successful whenever, wherever you are dancing.
    To Susanna E.: My God! T.J.?? Nottingham Rd.?? 20 years at least! So wonderful to hear from you. Thank you for your words. I hope you are very well and I would love to look you up.
    Torrin, Germaul, Andrea and Robin: A big hello and a huge thank you.
    Thank you to Rachel for a great and much needed blog and a generous review.

  9. Diana Says:

    I happened upon this blog quite by happenstance, but I must say that I am quite inspired. I also fall into the category of dancers who never danced with a big company, in part because I never found a way to balance making money with dancing.

    I am now in my early 30’s and feel like my time has run out for dancing. Well my body seems to be done with pushing in the way that most of us as dancers have been taught to work. But my mind and my spirit are anything but done. In fact, I am just beginning to wrap my head around what dance really is, how it serves, how to access the depths of a body’s wisdom, etc. etc. etc. I now run a small dance company in the Midwest. But I can’t make a real living at it. I am one of the lucky few who is able to live modestly and is supported enormously by family and friends.

    What the posts on this blog make me think about is how limited the art form of dance must be. It’s absurd that so many women would consider giving up their dancing when they hit 30 or so– when they are just beginning to reach a stage of true mastery over their art making.

    And then there are all the other women whose contributions we lose long before they hit 30 because it is unreasonable or imporssible to keep dancing once you grow up if you don’t have the potential to “make it.”

    I can only dream of the true contribution dance could make to our world if only the industry (and or culture) didn’t maintain such narrow standards for participation.

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