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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