New York Court Rules That Stage and Lap Dances Aren't Art

New York Court Rules That Stage and Lap Dances Aren't Art

Ladies of Los Angeles strip clubs, we believe you may have a bone to pick with a recent ruling that came down in the state of New York: A court of appeals decided that lap and stage dances don't qualify as "musical arts performances," and therefore bikini, topless and nudie joints aren't eligible for tax exemptions.

The case was brought before a panel of judges by an all-nude club in Latham, New York called Night Moves. This gentleman's establishment claimed that the dances performed on their premises are just as artistic as those performed in any other venue, and so should qualify for a state law that would let them out of being taxed on cover and performance fees.

But in a 4-3 decision, the court ruled against them, writing:

"It is not irrational for the tax tribunal to decline to extend a tax exemption to every act that declares itself a 'dance performance.'"

The judges went on to suggest that stripping is lower on the artistic totem pole (ha) than the Ice Capades:

"If ice shows presenting pairs ice dancing performances, with intricately choreographed dance moves precisely arranged to musical compositions, were not viewed by the Legislature as 'dance' entitled a tax exemption, surely it was not irrational for the tax tribunal to conclude that a club presenting performances by women gyrating on a pole to music, however artistic or athletic their practiced moves are, was also not a qualifying performance entitled to exempt status."

Clearly, these are people who have never been to Jumbo's Clown Room. In fact, these might be people who have never picked up a newspaper or read a lifestyle column: Exotic dancing emerged long ago from the seedy underbelly to become the stuff of competitions, dinnertime performances and classes for housewives.

Besides, who's to say that stripping and the moves that go along with it aren't difficult enough to execute - or, indeed, expressive enough of human emotions - to qualify as art? We'd argue that there's more raw humanity in one three-minute stripping performance than there is in an entire hour of Disney on Ice.

And we're not alone; LeeAnn Orsi, owner of Hollywood pole dance studio BeSpun and a former exotic dancer, says that pole and lap dancing is just as legit as ballet, jazz or modern dance.

"How could it not constitute a performance? Just because it's of a sensual nature doesn't make it not art," she said. "Dancing is a non-sex act, and this is skillful, artful dancing to music. It seems pretty self-explanatory to me."

The minority of judges felt the same way as Orsi, with Judge Robert S. Smith arguing that it wasn't the court's place to determine what is and is not artistic expression. In his dissent, Smith wrote that the ruling "makes a distinction between highbrow dance and lowbrow dance that is not to be found in the governing statute and raises significant constitutional problems."

Take that, state of New York.


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