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Novels and ballet copyrights

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This is kind of an odd topic and a search through the forums archives gave me some info, but does anyone have insight into copyrights and ballets?

I've thought about writing a novel, just kind of a fun story (nothing dramatic or serious...I'm no good with that kind of stuff) set at a fictional world class ballet company. However, I'm stumped...I feel like briefly describing a ballet company's entire season is kind of integral to the story for realism. Things are always dicey for Balanchine stuff, and maybe Ashton and MacMillan as well? From what I gather, because they are deceased, mentioning them as a person should be ok...like if a character said: "who does he think he is, Balanchine himself?" But it looks to get dicier when it mentions a work...like if a character said "Yeah, they performed Balanchine's Agon last season." I would think this would be ok, because I've done a little research and apparently mentioning song titles (as long as the composer/performer is mentioned as well) is ok, but quoting lyrics requires special permission, so I likened it to listing steps in choreography.

Obviously, I'm not going to lay out every single step in a ballet, or even a significant sections of choreography, although I might insert "arabesque" or "fouette" or a step here and there. As a poster said, it was a better idea to evoke a feeling rather than decribe steps themselves, and that's probably what I'd shoot for, because I want it to be readable to a general audience. I mean, Manon was a ballet that I fell in love with, and would to be able to write about that experience a bit with a character maybe seeing it for the first time and having a short conversation with other characters about it...I just don't know if that's legal? Or Symphonic Variations was another ballet that really moved me...but RB has exclusive rights to it I think, so would I have to mention RB? Or can a fictional company just perform it, even if a company in the real world needs rights to do so?

Plus, I like to make jokes, and who knows how that would work. I'm sure Giselle is in the public domain, but I think of scenes like maybe someone dresses as a ghost for Halloween and someone else says "It's GISELLE!" or something stupid like that. I can't imagine the Balanchine Trust would be thrilled if I made a joke like that involving one of his ballets...but I want to.

I guess these are better questions for a publisher, but I would hate to write an entire novel just to have a publisher tell me it was a copyright mine field. Any help or ideas would be most appreciated!

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