Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Banned In New York

Be very careful if you're thinking of dancing the Melbourne Shuffle in most New York City (USA) clubs, because it's banned. And not just the Melbourne Shuffle, but all styles of dancing. You'll see signs like this (pic right) telling you so.

But Freedom of Speech = Freedom of Dance doesn't it? Don't you believe it, and this comes from the Land of the Free -America, too.

How can they enforce it? Locks and chains on club doors usually, and courts have been successfully doing it for 80 years now, as reported in the New York Post...




February 23, 2007

...A bid to overturn the city's cabaret law was tripped up yesterday when a state appeals court held that the statute, which bars (bans) dancing in most bars and taverns, is constitutional.

A group of social dancers had filed a lawsuit saying the law - which requires establishments to have difficult-to-get cabaret licenses if they allow three or more people to dance - violated their right of free expression.

"Recreational dancing is not a form of expression protected by the federal or state constitutions," the state Appellate Division ruled.

In a unanimous decision, the five-judge panel found the purposes of the 80-year-old law were "to protect the health, safety and general welfare of the public by limiting noise, congestion and various hazards in residential areas."


NB: 'Cabaret' is an old word for a bar/nightclub sort of thing.

The ban came about in the 1920's USA prohibition era, when alcohol was banned. Part of it was crowd control, with drunken idiots yahoo-ing around in the street outside of venues in residential neighborhoods. Fair enough. We get them in Melbourne, they start fights, smash windows, stab people, and gangs of 15 will bash just one who happens to be walking by - for 'fun'. But they're not dancers, they're violent drunks.

So why not just ban the drunks ?

Our oldskool warehouse parties in Melbourne were done as far away from neighbors as possible. We didn't want to 'disturb the neighbors', we had nothing to prove. We just wanted to be left alone to dance, which is why our first priority was to find an isolated remote site, such as a warehouse in an industrial area that was shut down for the weekend when we'd do our party. We'd arrive, party and leave, and for locals it was as though we were never there. Not the easiest thing to achieve with a mega-watt sound system, a laser light show you could see from Mars and crowds dressed in fluro phatties, but we did it.

It was underground, that was the whole point.

But clubs are a different story, they like everyone knowing they exist, they live and die on attention. They sell more beer when everyone knows where they are. A rowdy crowd out the front is the best billboard they can get. They love the attention even if it's bad. I've known some Melbourne Club owners who deliberately go out of their way to cause controversy, just for the attention. It's a completely different attitude.

For instance who'd even heard of this Tim Sabre idiot or Raw Entertainment, before he said he wanted to ban the Melbourne Shuffle? He was a nobody. But now he's got our attention.

As many Shufflers have commented, it's the violent drunks who are the problem, both inside and outside, not the shufflers. I totally agree. These drunks spoil it for everyone, and they don't care. As long as 'they' have fun, everybody else can go to hell.

But there was a much more sinister side to the origins of this New York dancing ban...Racism.

The thought of New Yorkers of different races mixing together was considered obscene, the segregation laws also made it illegal. Dancing together was just the same.

Someone didn't want the 'wild strangers and foolish natives' (original words) or the weird 'bohemians' for that matter, mixing on the dancefloor, or anywhere really. They feared they might breed. 'Half breeds' was the disgusting phrase used for the children of mixed race.

These were not the most tolerant of times.

Prohibition didn't last long - too many politicians who like to drink I guess. Racism still rears it's damned ugly head, but is less of an issue since the civil rights movements of the 1960's.

But for some unholy reason, dancing is still banned by courts and the ban is considered constitutional.

And we're not talking about some distant past we only know about through old black and white documentary film footage. This is happening now.

No, Free Speech does not equal Free Dance.

And Tim Sabre of Raw Entertainment is trying to introduce exactly the same laws into Australia, using exactly the same legal argument, that has worked in New York City for the past 80 years. Don't let him!

Melbourne Shuffle Oldskool has been in touch with Metropolis In Motion and the New York Dance Parade both groups of pro-dance New Yorkers who have been protesting against the New York ban, with dance marathons and protest parades the past couple of years.

We might be able to help each other. Check out their sites, they have some great info, especially as they have 80 years of experience living under dance bans. Understanding the legal reasons for the ban, the press response, and the actions you can take to fight a dance ban, are empowering.

New Yorkers typically aren't shy and retiring types ;) they speak their mind and kick arse. But they have been loosing this battle for 80 years ! It's not just a bad joke. It's for real !

And now the battle is in Sydney and could even spread to you.

So let's stop this thing spreading any further, and see if in the process, we can help our dance loving friends in New York have the same Dance Freedom, the rest of us take as a human right.

So move it or lose it, Protect your Freedom to Dance.

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