A state forbidding its citizens to dance unless they have a special license issued by the police sounds like the first chapter of a dystopian science fiction book. Not in Sweden, in Sweden this is reality.
By the Swedish public order act, you are obligated to apply for a permit if you intend to dance or arrange dancing in the public space. The permit is issued by local police, costs around $80 (700 Swedish kroner) and could take up to a couple of weeks before being issued. It might be denied if the police find the location unsafe for dancing. To dance without license grants a fine of up to $1900 (16000 Swedish kroner) and/or up to 6 months in jail, responsibility, and judgment falling on the owner of the establishment or the organizer of the event.
The roots of this law come from the 1950’s and was a moral panic reaction over that decades’ youth cultural phenomenon, centered around the dancing parks. The youngsters enjoyed music, alcoholic beverages and flirting. The elite saw the modern dance and new music (jazz and swing) as degenerate. The immorality could ruin society and everyone from academics to politicians was in agreement. As we all know, dancing leads to excessive drinking and violence without fail.
Bar, restaurant and cafe owners get the sketchy honor of upholding this particular law by stopping every vigilante that dares to move in a rhythm. Some threats of arrests have been issued and discussion around “too much hip movements” or “dance-like activity” has sparked between law enforcement officers and citizens. Some would say this would be a total waste of police resources and I’m inclined to agree.
This part of the Public Order Act has been requested to be scrapped in several motions in the Swedish Parliament over the years. Rightfully so; micromanaging your voters and taxpayers this way can’t possibly be OK? Well… The Social democrats appointed a commission in response to the last motion to figure out how to solve the impossible task
of checking safety for the public without involving restrictions on dance activity. I’m waiting at the edge of my seat to see what solution our wise leaders finds for us.
Direct link to The Law in the Swedish Online Lawbook (Swedish):
PDF-file of the 2017 discussion around Police Laws (Swedish):
Bar owner in police questioning over “Illegal Dancing” (Swedish):
Discussion over a bill for the law in swedish parlament, 2016 (Swedish):
Interview with Student Pub missing a window to apply for dance license, losing income (Swedish):
Debate Article by Bent Starrin about the phenomenon of dance license (Sweden)