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Swedes hit streets in fight for right to dance

Swedes hit streets in fight for right to dance

Published: 23 Sep 2012 15:18 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Sep 2012 15:18 GMT+02:00

Over 1,000 dance enthusiasts took to the streets of Stockholm on Saturday in protest against Sweden's dance license laws.

Unperturbed by the rainy weather and waving placards with slogans like "shake that ass", "live, love, dance" and "dance or die", protesters gathered to listen to speeches in the Humlegården park in central Stockholm before dancing through the capital city towards the Tanto park on the southern island of Södermalm.

The protesters want to get rid of a law that requires owners of bars, clubs and restaurants to obtain a special licence in order to allow their patrons to dance. If owners lack this licence and their guests start spontaneously moving to music, they can be slapped with a fine.

Anders Varveus from Dans, Trams & Acceptans (Dance, Nonsense & Acceptance) - the group behind Saturday's demonstration - called the dance licence "absurd, obsolete and deeply offensive."

Varveus, a management consultant, told The Local that the licence law "infringes on our right to move freely."

"The law does not just apply to bars," explained Varveus.

"If you want to organize a party in the woods and you expect people to dance there, you have to have a license, too."

One of the speakers who addressed the crowds in Humlegården was Mattias Svensson, editor at the magazine Neo and author of the book Glädjedödarna (The Killjoys).

He told The Local that he participated in the demonstration to support the "right to dance".

"People's ability to gather and dance is part of the right of assembly. It is those who want to infringe on this right who ought to be required to seek permits and to be tested by a zealous bureaucracy," he said.

Svensson added that the dance license law is a remnant of the 1930s and 1940s, a time he describes as Sweden's era of "paternalism and moral panics".

Anders Varveus believes the dance licence hampers Swedish culture.

"A gigantic party tourism industry has developed with people who want to party going for weekend trips to places like Berlin, Barcelona and Ibiza," Varveus told the Local.

"But from Sweden the party tourism only goes one way. Very few come here."

He puts this down to the "meddlesome and moralistic" Swedish authorities.

Varveus hopes the law will be abolished before the end of the year and he and his fellow dance enthusiasts may get their way: Linda Nordlund, chair of the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) youth wing, and Liberal MP Mathias Sundin have proposed a parliamentary motion to abolish the permit.

Sundin told the local Norrköping Tidningar (NT) newspaper that the dance licence is part of the "complicated regulations and masses of permits that restaurateurs have to keep track of."

"Many of the rules are good and important as they make us feel safe… But this feels unnecessary," he told the paper.

And what if the dance license does not get abolished, after all?

"Then we will organize another, bigger dance demonstration," promised Varveus.

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Your comments about this article

17:38 September 23, 2012 by byke
So what happens if you live above a place that designed as say a restaurant that isn't doing to well, which then decides it wants to become a late night tap dancing school?

At present the license protects those around them to stop business from having a free hand to profit at the cost of locals who may object to such.

Personally I cant see what the issue is.

The same way I would hope that bars with neighbors nearby are required to have a license to operate late at night and need a license to play loud music in the early hours.

Yet again, a bunch of lemmings being sold freedom at the cost of others.
19:00 September 23, 2012 by Emerentia
Well, let's meet up outside Anders Varveus house at 2 pm, put on some loud music and dance for a couple of hours each night... I think he would change his mind about this then...
19:44 September 23, 2012 by jamesdean
The dance permit is, as Mattias Svensson touches on, a remnant of the 30s and 40s. Back then, pre-marital sex was still considered dirty and wrong, and dancing was seen as an activity that encouraged youths to have pre-marital sex. The dance permit was not introduced to protect people against loudly dancing neighbours, it was introduced as a paternalistic nanny-state law to try and stop youths from engaging in an activity that might make them sexually aroused.

It's also well worth mentioning that the dance permit is redundant - there are already laws against bars disturbing their neighbours; Bars are already banned from emitting sound volumes over a certain decibel. I'm not sure what the exact decibel level is, but if you live near a bar and the sound leaks into your home over a certain volume level, you can sue the bar. There have been several cases where bars have had to either stop playing music, had to start closing earlier, or been shut down entirely due to neighbours complaining about the volume level.

So, Byke and Emerentia, you don't have to worry about the dance permit being removed - you'd still be protected by the volume laws. A late night tapdancing school could still be shut down for disturbing its neighbours, and having an outdoor party in the middle of the night would still fall under disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct or some such law.

The idea that the owner of an establishment has to get a permit from the government to let the patrons of the establishment dance is simply ludicrous. Dancing does not necessarily make much, if any, noise
07:14 September 24, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
Agree with jamesdean. Recall that if you are living over the place, then that implies in all likelihood that you (and the other residents) are collectively the de-facto landlords, and can write up the lease in the first place in a way that protects you from suddenly living over a place that is open with pounding music until 5 a.m., or even if you did not add that clause to the lease initially you can probably terminate the lease later on because of the noise problem. The law sadly adds to the impression that Sweden is over taxed and ridiculously over regulated.

.
09:17 September 25, 2012 by samucs
Have one video about the dance protest on youtube.
14:00 September 26, 2012 by bcterry
Why is islam against fornication? ......... because it might lead to dancing.
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