“But I’m a Dancer…”: Pole Dancing Is Not Art According to NY Court

June 15th, 2011

Nite Moves, an upscale juice bar and adult entertainment club located in Lathan, New York, made a heroic attempt for the aspiring dancers everywhere (and sought to avoid taxes) when it deemed itself ”dramatic or musical arts performances,” thereby qualifying for a tax exemption.

On June 9, the appellate division of the Supreme Court of New York 3rd District held In the Matter of 677 New Loudon Corporation d/b/a Nite Moves that the club did not qualify for the tax exemption because the dancing that takes place at Nite Moves is not “choreographed performance.” 

The Court did not find the Nite Moves expert witness’s findings conclusive because “at a bare minimum” (pun intended, Court?) the witness did not actually see any of the private dances taking place, only the general dances in the club and the club’s DVD.  It seems surprising that the expert witness, ”a cultural anthropologist who has conducted extensive research in the field of exotic dance,” didn’t request a private dance as part of her field research.

The Court also found that the door charges did not qualify for the exemption because the dancers were not required to have any formal dance training or education.

Last, the Court held there was no violation of freedom of speech because the exemption is facially neutral does not target exotic dancing as a form of expression.

In trying to distill the law the Court has outlined: Exotic dancing may be considered art.  Private dances will be tough to prove as art because they’re private so no one really knows whether the performance is choreographed or not.  Strippers need some sort of dance education to qualify as artists (and watching a Nite Moves DVD or learn from the other dancers does not count).

I watch So You Think You Can Dance pretty regularly and a lot of incredible dancers on the show never have formal dance education.  Does this mean that the crumpers’ dances aren’t art because they are natural talent and the performance may be improvised?  This is probably a non-issue because I’m guessing a lot of street performers aren’t declaring taxes on their busking income anyway.