Dance Dance Revolution, NYC

I caught the following story on NPR’s All Things Considered (RealAudio stream) last night:

New York is known for its vibrant nightlife, yet in many bars and restaurants it’s illegal to dance. Now, a law professor is challenging the “Cabaret Laws,” claiming they violate a dancer’s right of free expression. The city says dancing by patrons is not a protected right — and can prove it. (link added)

This was a big surprise to me, and a bigger surprise to learn that it’s not just some blue law. It turns out that bar owners get fined thousands of dollars for allowing people to dance, or even “move rhythmically” to music. Surprisingly, there are only 316 places to legally dance in Manhattan.

Amusingly — in that circle of life sort of way — Lynne Taylor-Corbett, choreographer for Footloose, is among the challengers. She can’t believe the fact that the city she claims to have given birth to break dancing and hip hop should restrict dance only to bars that have a cabaret license. The license is the result of 1926 ordinance that decried jazz clubs for their “wild strangers” and “foolish natives,” according to the story.

The suit is being handled by NYU Law professor Paul Chevigny, an occasional tap dancer who gained standing on these matters by successfully challenging an earlier law that blocked many forms of live music in 1988. That doesn’t mean the city is rolling over on this. They’re fighting back, and all parties are looking to see how the courts answer the city’s motion to dismiss.