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Opening Arguments

The art of dance

At least this isn't another tiresome attempt to stetch the First Amendment to cover things other than political speech:

Is nude dancing an art? New York's highest court will consider legal arguments by a strip club on whether it is and deserves a state tax exemption as such.

The case set for oral arguments Wednesday involves Nite Moves, an adult entertainment club in suburban Albany that is contesting a tax bill of more than $124,000 following a 2005 audit.

Tax officials say sales taxes were paid on the club's non-alcoholic drinks but are also owed on admission and so-called "couch sales," where patrons pay for private or lap dances.

Nite Moves claims the dances are exempt under state tax law as "live dramatic or musical arts performances." The exemption also applies to theater or ballet. The club is relying on testimony from a cultural anthropologist who has studied exotic dance and visited Nite Moves.

"Couch sales" as an art form? Who knew? I'll bet the "cultural anthropologist" liked his job that day, huh?

I think the interesting question is not whether nude dancing should count as a "live dramatic or musical art performance" but why we should just uncritically accept the idea of government deciding, through its tax polices, what is and is not art. Of course, it already uses tax policies to decide what is and is not a valid religion, so I guess the precedent is there.

It's been a long, long time, but I went to see nude dancing once or twice, and I seem to remember enjoying it a lot more than the little ballet I've seen, but what do I know about art? Nude ballet -- now there would be something!