The term dance bar
is used in India
to refer to bars
in which adult entertainment in the form of dances by relatively well-covered women are performed for male patrons in exchange for cash.
Bar dancing in India, however, markedly differs from erotic dancing in the Western world and some parts of the Eastern world and even parts of India. In a way, it is more similar to bellydancing
performed as entertainment. The dancers, known as bar girls
, remain significantly clothed
throughout the performance, showing at most some midriff
, part of the back, and bare arms. Therefore, the erotic aspect of bar dancing is mostly achieved through suggestion. In Maharashtra
, bar dancer attire is often ethnic Indian (sari
), whereas in some other places, such as Bangalore
, it may include Western garb. The bar dances are often compared to the mujras
of yore, wherein women would dance to live classical Indian music
Bar girls dance to Bollywood
numbers on a colorfully lit dance floor, in the central focus of a dance bar's seating arrangement. Most of the time, they will be reservedly swaying to the music until they find some patron whose attention they wish to attract, or are called upon by a patron. They then dance in front of the patron, making fleeting eye contact
, pointing, gesturing, or generally making their targeted patron "feel special". No bodily contact between the two is allowed
, and the bar dancers often stay within the confines of the dance floor. Male waiters hover over patrons and dancers who get too close to each other, both to oversee transactions between the two as well as ostensibly to prevent sex-for-money deals being made.
The patron in turn showers his favored dancer with currency notes
. He does this either by handing over nominal denominations of cash (10 or 20 rupee
notes), or through an act known as "scratching", where he holds a wad of currency notes above his dancer and rubs notes off the wad down upon the dancer. In some cases, he would even garland
the dancer with rupees. Many bar dancers are able to make hundreds of rupees a night in this way, thanks to generous, well-off, and possibly inebriated
patrons. In one scandalous story, Indian scamster Abdul Karim Telgi
spent nearly a crore
of rupees (1 crore = 10,000,000) on a single dancer in one night
At the end of the day, each girl's earnings are counted and split in some predetermined proportion between the dance bar and the girls. The dance bars also make money through the sale of alcohol
Social and Economic Aspects
Such dance bars used to be present only in Mumbai
but are now spreading across the country in cities. It is estimated that in Mumbai alone, there are hundreds of dance bars, although what makes it difficult to estimate the number is that many of them are not very accessible. Some of these remain open till late at night.
They are a source of revenue for the government and they employ thousands of bar girls. Some policemen and local thugs also make money off regular haftas from the dance bars
The bar girls are, in many cases, sole support their families through their earnings They often live together by renting out dwellings in housing colonies, where inexpensive associated services such as makeup shops, dress shops and the like are at hand.
Bar girls and dance bar owners have formed associations to protect their interests Most bar girls in Maharashtra are believed to be from outside the state , some even from outside the country.
Dance bars have also drawn the ire of the infamous Indian moral police in recent years, especially in the state of Maharashtra
. They have been charged with morally corrupting society, exploiting men and siphoning money away from the latter's families, having connections with criminal elements
, as well as being fronts for prostitution
The dance bars and their supporters have countered with the demand that dances by women as performed in elite hotels, clubs, public shows, and gymkhanas
, presently exempted from the government's list of targets, be tarred with the same brush
Some have even pointed out the racy item numbers
of Bollywood films
as examples of hypocrisy on the part of the state and their other opponents.
On July 22 2005
a bill was adopted by the Maharashtra State Assembly banning dance bars across the state. Starting August 15 2005
, the ban was implemented across Maharashtra. Bar girls were forced to turn to the Gulf
, other states
, waiting tables
, dancing at mujras
, or, in many cases, outright prostitution
in order to survive. Some have even committed suicide
, as rehabilitation by the state has not been forthcoming
The dance bars themselves had to attempt to make ends meet by hosting live singing troupes or live bands
However, on April 12 2006, a Maharashtra state high court ruled the ban unconstitutional and gave the state eight weeks to file its case with the Supreme Court.