One of the World's Most Progressive Countries Has a Bizarre Ban on Dancing


Footloose isn't just a way to get your Kevin Bacon fix anymore. It's a real thing.

Sweden's parliament voted this week to extend the country's ban on spontaneous dancing, requiring establishments to carry dancing permits lest they be fined for letting patrons move to the beat. Three of the country's eight political parties voted in favor of abolishing the ban, but were overruled in a vote. 

Since 2007, more than 20 proposals to get rid of the law have been presented to parliament, but all to no avail. While the right-leaning Centre Party has publicly supported the right to dance in the past, they did not vote in favor of the most recent petition.


Safety first. In 2012, Swedes hosted a dancing demonstration in the streets of Stockholm, reportedly carrying placards inscribed with "dance or die." The event quickly raised concerns, prompting responses from some in the law enforcement community.

"The purpose of having a permit for a dance floor is first and foremost a point of safety," police officer Robert Lindgren explained as the reasoning behind the ban to Sveriges Radio, reports the Local. "It's known that dance floors lead to more fights, mess and situations that need police intervention..."


Unsurprisingly, not everyone agrees with Officer Lindgren. Aside from the fact that most dancing is a fairly convivial act, some spoke out directly in support of dancing. 

Lucy, a school teacher and dancing enthusiast in Sweden, spoke with Mic about the law, saying "Sweden is an amazing place to live. But at the end of the day, people still love to dance."

A rally against the ban is being organized for August by nightclub owner Anders Varveus, who told the Daily Mail he expects "to have around 10,000 people dance in protest to this ridiculous law. How you want to move your own body is not a matter for regulation."

While institutions such as the National Bureau of Economic Research support the notion that higher degrees of regulation are generally associated with more progressive and equitable societies, this strange law seems to ironically infringe on basic freedoms.

Come on, what is this? The tiny town from Footloose?

Really, Sweden? While a ban on dancing is strange enough on its own, where it's coming from is what makes the situation even stranger. Sweden is one of the most progressive and forward-thinking countries in the world on several metrics. 

The 2014 United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Report — which includes indices such as gender equality, education and average annual income — ranked Sweden as the 12th most developed country out of 187.

Using data from 2013, the report revealed that nearly half of Sweden's parliamentary seats are held by women, and there's virtually no gender disparity in levels of education; in fact, women in Sweden have a higher Human Development Index (HDI) than men.

Given the country spawned Abba and has such a strong emphasis on human rights and basic freedoms, it seems oddly contradictory that Swedish law literally limits the way one can move one's body in public (not to mention the sticky problem of how to define 'dancing').

Whether or not Sweden will lift the ban in time for the senior prom remains to be seen.