Hanna, who has spent almost 50 years studying the cultural expression of dance, called the fieldwork “interesting.” Her pictures, meant to demonstrate local enthusiasm for exposed flesh, became evidence in a nightclub’s fight against an ordinance requiring strippers to better cover their derrieres. Since 1995, Hanna, a University of Maryland researcher, has helped clubs repel efforts to tax, regulate or close them, arguing more than 100 times that striptease is just as much an art as ballet.
Next year, her lap-dances-are-art argument will be part of an appeal before New York’s highest court. A stripper in heels is like a ballerina en pointe, she says, and her communication of feeling is no different than that of the New York City Ballet – and no less protected by the First Amendment.
Pro – Judith Hanna
Patrons of gentleman’s clubs aren’t just there to look at nude bodies. They want to read into it. It’s not just the eroticism, it’s the beauty of the body, and the fantasy they create.
“Exotic dance has nudity and is marginalized and stigmatized for it. It’s really old hat. It’s in musicals, operas, and theater.”
Contro – Scott Bergthold (Tennessee attorney who helps municipalities craft and defend adult-business regulations)
You can’t just trump the law by saying a naked dancer’s erotic message is protected by free speech. We’re dealing with cases where cities are outlawing touching between naked dancers and customers that involve prostitution acts and she’s coming in with these opinions. It’s ridiculous.”
The case is headed to the New York Court of Appeals, which said in October it will hear arguments next year.
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