A large crowd of Montréal residents held a huge dance party at Mount Royal on Saturday to urge the Quebec government to reverse its ban on dancing in bars and clubs.
A DJ played music over a loudspeaker as protesters donned shiny wigs, rompers and costumes as they swayed to the music and waved signs reading “Dance for the right to dance.”
Alex Stojda, who introduced himself with friends, said Montreal is one of the last major cities in the Western world where dancing is not allowed, despite having one of the highest vaccination rates.
“We are ready, we are responsible people, we are all vaccinated and we just want to be able to try to get back to normal a little bit and have a little fun,” he said.
Stojda said she understands the public health concerns about dancing, but says there have been enough large indoor events in recent months to show that it is possible to do things safely if precautions are followed.
Several in the crowd said it’s unfair for the government to allow large venues like the Bell Center to reopen at full capacity for concerts and hockey games, but clubs and bars cannot open their dance floors to much smaller crowds.
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Melanie Leeson said that after seeing some 20,000 people in the stands at the Bell Center for a recent Montreal Canadiens game, she feels the government ban is discriminating against nightlife enthusiasts.
“I feel like if we’re at a point where we can be in such a large crowd indoors, I don’t see why you can’t afford nightlife if people follow the health measures,” he said.
Quebec and British Columbia are the only two provinces that continue to ban dancing in bars and nightclubs as part of their COVID-19 regulations.
Quebec has said it is taking a gradual approach to removing restrictions related to the pandemic, and experts have said that dancing can be dangerous due to lack of detachment and other factors.
But those who participated in the protest said the ban has been long enough and that it is time to let people relax and have fun, with precautions such as proof of vaccination.
Several mentioned that dancing, for them, is more than a frivolous activity: it is also about being part of a community and doing something that gives them joy after almost two years of a pandemic.
“It’s time for pleasure and joy, and that’s dancing,” said Sophie Trolliet, who was standing at the Mount Royal overlook with a sign.
Leeson, for her part, said she missed being with the dance community, which she described as “warm, welcoming and non-judgmental.”
“I miss the feeling of that community, of being free on the dance floor, because that’s really why people go: to escape how difficult the world is,” he said. “And I really miss that.”
© 2021 The Canadian Press