"We're a Footloose Town": Burlington Looks to Repeal Dance Ordinance

NOW: “We’re a Footloose Town“: Burlington Looks to Repeal Dance Ordinance

Efforts are underway to repeal a nearly 100-year-old ordinance in Burlington, making it illegal to dance in public without a permit. 

City staff uncovered the ordinance last month, leading to a few laughs at City Hall. 

"This just popped up," says Mayor Jeannie Hefty. "To have something like this in place is ridiculous." 

The ordinance was written in 1924, requiring a city-issued permit to hold or conduct a public dance.

According to the ordinance: "No person shall hold or conduct a public dance within the City without first obtaining a permit therefor."

Technically, that includes Burlington's three dance studios, including Moved by Grace. 

       "I thought it was absolutely crazy," says Director Emily Moorefield. "The first thing that pops to mind is footloose, of course."

Footloose, the 1984 film featuring Kevin Bacon, tells the story of a group of teenagers living in a city where rock music, and dancing, are banned.

The difference between that plot, and Burlington's situation, is that city officials had no idea the law was even on the books. 

Even though it's not enforced, Mayor Hefty said repealing it was the right thing to do.

      "Here's a 93-year-old ordinance that has nothing to do with this day in age," says Hefty. 

Technically, the Moved by Grace Dance Studio may have been exempt from the law. Churches, Schools, and Fraternal Organizations, are listed as exempt. 

But any dancing done outside the church walls, would be considered a violation, under the law.

       "Technically, we are law-breakers, but I think we would prefer the term trailblazer in that aspect," joked Moorefield. 

The Common Council is planning to repeal the ordinance at its March 21st meeting. 

If you're wondering, the city hasn't issued a "Dance Permit" since 1996. 

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