From my peepholes at Legalize Dancing...big shouts to them for helping put together this long, long, looooong overdue lawsuit. In the 90s I spent many evenings DJing, dancing, having a good time...until Rudy Ghouliani and his nightlight task force goons showed up. Usually around 12:30-1:30am, just when things were about to pop off, they would shine flashlights in people's faces, write tickets and even padlock your favorite downtown lil' spot--because of DANCING. That's right, dancing was and still is ILLEGAL in NYC. Quality of life my ass.
I also think its hilarious they got the choreographer from footloose involved. And the ex-owner of the Plant Bar is my man Dominique, who's been doing stuff in NYC for years, and currently part of the electro-ish dance rock group the Glass. Mas info on his group here.
DANCERS SUE CITY TO REPEAL CABARET LAWS
Four Dancers - Byron Cox, Ian Dutton, John Festa, and Meredith Stead - and a social-dance organization, the Gotham West Swing Club, filed suit June 23rd, 2005, in a New York State Supreme Court, calling for the immediate repeal of the Caberet Laws on the ground that they restrict the state's guarantee of freedom of expression by legislating and limiting the act of social dancing at eating and drinking establishments.
The plaintiffs in the case are represented by a team of lawyers that includes NYU law professor Paul Chevigny and former New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Norman Siegel. The next court date in hte case is September 2nd, when the city will offer its initial response to the suit. On October 18th, the plaintiffs will file their response. The judge is Hon. Michael Stallman.
Prominent members from across New York's dance community are supporting the suit, demonstrating the Caberet Laws' broad negative impact on dancing of every kind, and on dancing as a vital cultural influence. Supporters who filed affidavits for the plaintiff include: Phil Schaap, WKCR FM DJ and renowned jazz historian; Peter Martins, New York City Ballet Master in Chief; Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Footloose (the film) and Alvin Ailey, choreogrpaher; and Yvone Marceau, who teaches ballroom dancing at the Juiliard School and the American School of Ballet, and whose NYC grade school dance classes are the basis for the hit documentary film Mad Hot Ballroom.
Additional affidavits were submitted by two musicologists, a music journalist and singer/percussionist from El Barrio, a DJ and former owner of the Plant Bar on the Lower East Side (which suffered thousands of dollars in Caberet Law fines), and a dance-studio owner who claims New York City has become virtually devoid of venues for social dancing due to the stifling atmosphere of the Caberet Laws.
Professor Chevigny's involvement in the case is significant, as he is attmepting to complete the total abolition of the Caberet Laws he began in 1986, when he won a State Supreme Court case on behalf of the Musicians Union which overturned a portion of the laws requiring musicians to obtain a license when performing live. Chevigny's history of the laws, Gigs: Jazz and the Caberet Laws in New York City, documented the dubious foundations of the laws in 1926, when Jimmie Walker's Tammany Hall cracked down on rampant vice in segregated Prohibition-era New York. Although he doesn't dance as often as he used to, Chevigny views overturning the dancing portion of the laws as unfinished business.
The suit marks the latest phase in the effort to reform the Caberet Laws. Beginning with public protests during the Giuliani administration, including the Dance Liberation Front's hokey-pokey around City Hall and the Million Mambo March to Tompkins Square Park in the 1990s, a grassroots movement evolved inot an organization called Legalize Dancing NYC. LDNYC increased public awareness of the authoritarian enforcement of the Caberet Laws - including a cover story in the Village Voice and national coverage in The New York Times, Spin, and Rolling Stone - while working with the City Council and the Dept. of Consumer Affairs to remove dancing from the New York City law books.
In 2003, the city proposed a new "Nightlife License" that, although imperfect, would have legalized dancing while imposing new restrictioins on bars and clubs. Although the proposal was eventually withdrawn, Mayor Bloomberg and his administration appeared to support the idea that legislating dancing is ridiculous.
On the Record:
Mayor Bloomberg told The New York Times on February 7, 2004: "Now I don't think in this day and age we need dancing police. Let's get serious. Who cares if you dance? If you want to have a bar that has dancing, God Bless You."
In 2003, Gretchen Dykstra, who was the then commissioner of the Dept. of Consumer Affairs, which administers the Caberet Laws, said, "[Nightlife establishments] have to expend resources and energy telling people not to dance. They don't have any community problems, they don't have violations. But people can't shake their booties. And that strikes us as a little odd."
New York City Council Member Alan Gerson, who represents Lower Manhattan, told the times in 2003, "The [Caberet] laws are an indirect and ineffiecient way to regulate noise. At worst they are a ridiculous regulation of a legitimate form of expression. We are regulating the wrong thing."
For additional info about the Caberet Laws, click here.