“Just Dancing” - The Reykjavik Grapevine

“Just Dancing”

“Just Dancing”

Published June 2, 2010

In March, the Icelandic parliament voted in favour of the so-called
“strip law” banning “naked exhibitions as a profession.” Wondering how
employees in those “restaurants” feel about this, I set off to a strip
club, Óðal, to interview the staff there. In a completely empty bar (it
was a week-day) that—except for the stage—could have been any ordinary
nightclub, I met an opinionated bartender and a charming girl in a
skimpy outfit who both agreed to talk to me.
What struck me the most is that nobody seems to know what the law
means. So far, girls are not allowed to strip completely naked, so the
law would technically not change anything unless the parliament invents a
new definition of nudity. That also means nobody knows what is going to
happen when the law comes into effect. The employees of Iceland’s strip
bars might be thrown out at a moment’s notice or they might just
continue dancing, stripping down to their undies and serving their
costumers’ needs.
Asked what he thinks about the new law, the Eastern-European
bartender said it made him feel like back in the old communist days of
his home country, where “people were drowning in all kinds of useless
rules and regulations.” He went on to wonder whether shutting down
Iceland’s four strip clubs (yes, there are four of them) was as crucial
as people are trying to make it out to be, and whether there weren’t
other, more pertinent problems in Iceland at the moment.
Talking to the admittedly charming stripper with her sweet smile
(who also hails from Eastern Europe), the answers I got were about as
uninformative as they could get. The following is a transcript of our
non-conversation:
How long have you been in Iceland?
5 or 6 months.
Why did you come here?
I just came here to work. My friends are working here and I wanted to
join them.
Do you like it?
Yes, I like Iceland.
And how is working here?
Good. It depends on the days. When there is a lot of customers, it’s
fun. Otherwise it can get a bit boring.
So you like your work?
Yes.
Have you worked as a stripper before, in your home country?
No, this is my first job as a stripper. At home, I worked in an office.
Did you get bored with that?
No, I just wanted to change and improve my English.
Why did you decide to do stripping?
Because my friends have been working with this job for a long time. And
when I came here, I didn’t speak very good English and I just knew a few
words. And now every day, I can practice my English when I speak to the
costumers. For this job, I need English. If I just sit here with a
stupid smile, I don’t make money. Also, I just like dancing.
How are the customers? Are they mostly Icelanders or tourists?
Mostly foreigners. Sometimes, Icelanders come here. But in a normal
week, there are more tourists. During the weekend, we get some
Icelanders as well.
Are the costumers nice?
Not like that. Sometimes, some nice customers come around, but not every
day.
But they’re not rude or anything?
No, they’re not.
How long are you planning to work here?
I don’t know. Just for a while.
Do you work every night?
Usually, yes. It’s very short working hours; I’m off the whole day.
Does someone tell you how to dance and talk to the customers? Are
there rules for that?

My friends taught me how to do this, the dancing and stuff. And when it
comes to talking to customers, it’s different every time. Some customers
have a lot of questions; some just want to talk about their lives.
Are there sometimes problems with customers?
The other day, some drunken customer came here. We have security for
that. The customers can’t ever touch you. This is just a normal job,
nothing bad or nasty about it, you know.
How many girls work here?
3 to 6.
Have you heard about the new law in Iceland that will ban strip
clubs?

Yes, this is a stupid thing. If they close the strip clubs I’ll just go
to another country. I don’t wanna go back to my home country, though.
You would go to another European country?
Yes, but only if the strip clubs close. My Icelandic isn’t good enough
for a normal day job. And I don’t want to work at Bónus or something
like that.
Why do you think the law is stupid?
Because in a normal week, every normal club here is closed. And then,
the tourists come here just to have a drink or listen to music, not
necessarily to check out the girls.
But there are other pubs that are open during the week.
(Shrugs)
So you don’t think stripping is something bad?
No, not at all. For example, when guys buy a private dance, they just
sit in a sofa and the girl is dancing, that’s all. There’s no
prostitution or anything like that.
Are you against prostitution?
Yes, definitely.
So you think this is just dancing?
Yeah, that’s all.
When you give private dances, you’re never naked?
No, not here. But in other countries, of course private dancers can get
naked.
Would you be okay with getting naked?
Yes, because the customer can’t touch me. So if he likes me, why
shouldn’t he look at me? I’m just dancing.

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