Dancing protesters oppose the dance permits on the streets of Stockholm in 2012. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT
Spontaneous dancing remains outlawed in Sweden except in venues with special “dance licences” after a majority in parliament voted down a move to free the feet.
By Paul O Mahony/The Local
If the owners of bars, clubs or restaurants lack a dance permit and their patrons start moving to music, they can be slapped with a fine in Sweden.
Police have long argued that the permits are needed because dancing creates disorder, which in turn can lead to fights and despite a long campaign against the practice, it seems it is sticking around.
Anders Varveus, a Swedish nightclub pioneer who in 2012 led a 1,000-strong street-dance demo against the regulation, said he was surprised by the outcome of Thursday’s vote and vowed to resuscitate the protest movement.
“I’m planning to hold a demo at the Pride Parade on August 1st,” he told The Local.
To ensure maximum effect, the protest will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the launch of his Docklands club, an iconic venue on the Stockholm club scene.
“We’ll have about 100 people dancing on our vehicle but we’ll also have a fantastic sound system and I expect around 10,000 people to dance behind us.”
Varveus said his opposition to the dance permits was threefold.
“First, it’s a question of personal freedom. How you want to move your own body is not a matter for regulation.”
Special dance laws were also an antiquated, stodgy way for a state to get involved in the lives of its citizens, he said.
“Finally, it’s very hard to keep this law functional. What is the definition of dancing? Once you start moving, how do you know when you’ve crossed a line. It’s funny, really.”
Varveus said he was astonished by which parties had voted for and against the motion.
“I’m not surprised the Liberals voted to remove it; they’re traditionally in favor of more personal freedoms. But I’m really surprised the conservative, nationalist Sweden Democrats voted to get rid of the permits, along with the Left Party, both of which I’d consider more ‘totalitarian’ than the other parties.”
The Centre Party initially petitioned to remove the permits but in the end did not vote against them. The party argued that the vote had come too early and said it and the other centre-right Alliance parties were preparing a more far-reaching package on general over-regulation for the autumn that would include the dance licences.
Varveus said: “I don’t understand the logic.”
Erik Helmerson, a commentator for the Dagens Nyheter newspaper,described the regulation as an “embarrassing bureaucratic relic” from the 1970s.
He included in his article a report from a municipal inspector in the town of Gävle last year, who wrote after a visit to a restaurant:
“The area was populated by 50 to 80 people who moved with the rhythm of the music in a manner akin to dancing.”
Helmerson added: “The way we view dancing says a lot about a society. In Sweden restaurateurs are punished with fines and lose their licence to serve alcohol if people like the music being played and move to it without permission.
“The question we should ask is whether there is too much or too little dancing. And whether politicians are really the right ones the decide.”