The decision to allow dancing amid Adelaide’s busy festival season has prompted expressions of jubilation from dance-starved revellers, even if many venues will not necessarily benefit.

Key points:

  • Dancing will be allowed at smaller venues from Friday, provided there is social distancing
  • Dance-starved revellers have taken to social media to express their delight
  • Not all venues — including those with capacity for more than 1,000 people — will benefit

Dancing had been effectively banned at dozens of events and venues throughout South Australia for months because of the risks of coronavirus superspreading.

Opposition to the ban intensified with the start of the Adelaide Fringe festival, which was forced to introduce “no dancing” signs at its Garden of Unearthly Delights.

Security guards had to break up a group of people dancing at the venue on Saturday night, because its COVID-19 management plan prohibited dancing.

An online petition to reinstate dancing across South Australian music establishments has attracted more than 10,000 signatures.

But the state’s transition committee has now decided to significantly relax restrictions from Friday, albeit at small-to-medium-sized venues.

“Dust off the dancing shoes,” one person wrote on social media, while another declared: “This is the best day ever”.

“Dancing is back, what more could you want?” another said.

It is unclear which Adelaide Fringe venues will benefit from the eased restrictions.(Instagram: Royal Croquet Club)

While dancing will remain off-limits at large venues, SA’s Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said the change in the state’s COVID-19 directions would provide an opportunity for those who “want to let their hair down”.

“[The change] does not allow a large nightclub to be operating in the way that people have experienced those sorts of venues in the past. That really is the danger — it’s not dancing itself that is the problem,” Professor Spurrier said.

“If I stood here and did a bit of dancing, I’m at no more risk to you than standing here and talking.

SA Premier Steven Marshall said authorities would carefully monitor the impact of the relaxation “with a view to moving back to normality down the track”.

He said venues with more than 1,000 patrons would still need COVID-19 management plans and be subject to restrictions on dancing.

“But if you’ve got a smaller venue, a venue of under 200 patrons, dancing is permitted, as long as you can abide by the normal restrictions, QR codes, COVID marshals, one [person] per two square metres,” he said.

“In venues between 200 and 1,000, dancing is also permitted on a dance floor, a designated area, for up to 50 people at a time, and again, they will need to abide by those restrictions.”

Festival welcomes end of travel ban

Health authorities also revealed today that border restrictions with Greater Melbourne would be removed on Friday — a move that has been welcomed by Adelaide Festival executive director Elaine Chia.

Ms Chia said the hard border had left some Melbourne-based artists in limbo, but that there was “great excitement” because they would now be able to attend.

“We’ve been working with SA Health for a number of weeks now, as soon as the lockdown came down in Melbourne.

“We have been [doing] rehearsals already and having a number of Victorian artists come through and, especially for us, this announcement is a huge relief for Adelaide Writers Week because a number of authors can also now come through and be free to enter.”

The Premier said he suspected “a lot of people” were also going to be “quite relieved” by the move to permit dancing.

The Fringe Festival is currently in full swing in Adelaide’s east end.(Instagram: Adelaide Fringe)

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said police would work with individual establishments to avoid breaches, but “the ball is in the court of venues to do the right thing”.

Adelaide Rock ‘n’ Roll Club president Barbara Hahn said she was “quite elated”, while Jive bar owner Tam Boakes said the decision would have a hugely positive impact.

“We’ve been having to wrangle with poor patrons coming to have a fun time at a live gig and be told to ‘stop dancing and stop having too much fun’, so it’s really really good that we can now enjoy a live gig for what it’s meant to be,” Ms Boakes said.

But not all Mad March events will benefit or be able to boost their patronage as a result of the change, including the WOMADelaide world music festival.

“It won’t change what we have in place with our COVID management plan … which is that dancing is permitted at WOMADelaide provided that people remain in the immediate vicinity of their seat,” WOMAD Director Ian Scobie said.

“This year it’s a reserve seated event — we’ve got 6,000 seats … and they’re all spaced apart.”