Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Legal Commentary: Pole Dancing is Not Art

Via the Art Law Blog comes news that NY State does not consider pole-dancing art:
The two-member Tax Appeals Tribunal held that the routines performed nude or nearly nude by dancers at the Nite Moves club near Albany were largely learned from other dancers or on YouTube and the Internet, and are not the kind of carefully arranged and practiced patterns of movement normally equated with the art of dance.

"We question how much planning goes into attempting a dance seen on YouTube," the tax appeals panel concluded in Matter of 677 New Loudon Corporation D/B/A Nite Moves, 821458. "The record also shows that some of the moves on the pole are very difficult, and one had best plan how to approach turning upside down on the pole to avoid injury. However, the degree of difficulty is as relevant to a ranking in gymnastics as it is dance."

I find this fascinating, because it shows what a bunch of lawyers and bureaucrats think about the arts. A few notes:
  • The legal frame of reference is rather muddled in the ruling. It says that pole dancing is not art because it is not "carefully planned and practiced." That implies that they are using the idea of art as a craft (a series of technical skills) as a lens for judgment. But then they also state that "the degree of difficulty is as relevant to a ranking in gymnastics as it is dance," implying that technical difficulty is not a qualification of art.

  • Also, check out this basic rejection of Postmodernism:
"The appeals tribunal held, however, that "[dance expert] Dr. Hanna's view of choreographed performance is so broad as to include almost any planned movements done while playing canned music."

"To accept Dr. Hanna's stunningly sweeping interpretation of what constitutes choreographed performance, all one needs to do is move in an aesthetically pleasing way to music, using unity, variety, repetition, contrast, transition," the panel concluded."
  • Luckily, it seems like the ruling is not, as the article makes it seem, a unilateral assessment that all pole-dancing is not art. We are used to pole-dancing in the stripper context, but having met plenty of people who now do pole-dancing as a fun workout, I wouldn't be surprised to see pole-dancing become its own sort of art form, in the way that flair bartending is, in my opinion, a performing art.

  • The ruling also makes it clear that there is a legal line between an arts organization and a "place of entertainment." I shudder to think what would happen if arts organization were legally barred from being entertaining...