MONTREAL — A large crowd of Montrealers held a large dance party on Mount Royal on Saturday to urge the Quebec government to reverse its ban on dancing in bars and clubs.
A DJ blasted music over a loudspeaker as protesters donned wigs, onesies and sparkly costumes as they swayed to the music and waved signs reading "dance for the right to dance."
Alex Stojda, who showed up with friends, said Montreal is one of the last major cities in the Western world where dancing isn't allowed, despite having one of the highest vaccination rates.
"We’re ready, we’re responsible people, we’re all vaccinated and we just want to be able to try to get back to normal a little bit and have some fun," he said.
Stojda said he understands the public health concerns about dancing, but says there have been enough large indoor events in recent months to prove that it's possible to do things safely if precautions are followed.
Several in the crowd said it's unfair the government is allowing large venues such as the Bell Centre to reopen at full capacity for concerts and hockey games, but clubs and bars can't open their dance floors to much smaller crowds.
Melanie Leeson said that after seeing some 20,000 people in the stands at the Bell Centre for a recent Montreal Canadiens game, she feels the government ban is discriminating against those who love the nightlife.
"I feel like if we’re at a point where we can be in a crowd that large indoors, I don’t see why nightlife can’t be allowed if people follow health measures," she 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's taking a gradual approach to lifting pandemic-related restrictions, and experts have said dancing can be dangerous because of a lack of distancing and other factors.
But those at the protest said the ban has gone on long enough, and it's time to let people relax and have fun -- with precautions in place such as proof of vaccination.
Several mentioned that dancing, for them, is more than a frivolous activity: it's also about being part of a community and doing something that brings them joy after almost two years of a pandemic.
"It’s time for pleasure and joy, and that’s what dance is," said Sophie Trolliet, who stood on the Mount Royal lookout holding a sign.
Leeson, for her part, said she missed being with the dance community, who 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," she said. "And I really miss that."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2021
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press