New York Judge Catherine Bennett had become the hero of many a strip joint by declaring that pole dancing is a form of art worthy of a tax exemption. In doing so, she ruled in favor of the argument of Nite Moves in near Albany that it qualified for the “dramatic arts” tax exemption — allowing it to keep $129,000 in sales tax. It also gave thousands of customers an opportunity to rebut claims by their spouses that they lack culture and should expose themselves to art.
In a ruling that it probably a bit easier to write as a female than a male judge, Bennett observed that, after watching DVDs of exotic dancers, she found that pole dancing was “no small feat,” though some pole dancers in fact have small feet.
She also heard from a University of Maryland dance scholar who also watched videos of dance routines at the club. The judge held “[t]he videos depicted dance routines that incorporated acrobatic pole maneuvers, splits and other patterned repetitions. The pole maneuvers in particular are no small feat to accomplish, and attempting such a performance without the skill and a planned routine of steps could prove dangerous. . . . The fact someone may believe that this entertainment is not appropriate for any audience is not the issue.”
She also noted that “[c]learly, it is not the case that people are drawn to petitioner’s business for the juice drinks. The patrons are there to see beautiful, scantily clad performers dancing on stage.”
Seriously, the opinion does make a valid point. I actually have never seen pole dancing (honestly, this is not just a disclaimer for my wife). However, I am not sure how you distinguish between a serious pole dancer and another form of dancing like cabaret or Fosse’s choreography — beyond the one dollar bills, that is. The fact is that there are other forms of dancing with sexual themes:
“The fact someone may believe that this entertainment is not appropriate for any audience is not the issue,” ruled Bennett. “The fact that the dancers remove all or part of their costume during the performances, that the dance routines are seductive in nature and titillation of a patron is the outcome, simply does not render such dance routines as something less than choreographed performances, or remove them from the exception to the general rule of Tax Law §1105(f)(1).”
Bennett’s ruling run against the recent effort to impose special taxes on strip clubs, a move that I believe raises serious constitutional and policy questions, here.
Notably, the win belongs to Andrew McCullough, the club’s lawyer, who notes, as a Mormon, that he sees clear similarities between strip clubs and Mormon temples — resulting in a huge influx of new members in local Mormon temples. The men found out, however, that McCullough was referring to how officials make up excuses to get rid of both establishments: “They say, ‘It’s lights, it’s traffic, it’s noise,’ ” he said. “But what they really mean is, ‘We don’t like your kind.’” This came as a great disappointment to many who saw a chance to not only find art but find God.
However, this is not the only connection between the devas and the divine. Mormons in Utah are pushing for pole dancing to be an Olympic sport, here.
On the religious side, an ex-stripper has been opposed in her effort to lead the faithful, here.
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