29 Jun 2008

If It Dances, Regulate It

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France is just a little further along the same path of progressive statism we ourselves are headed down.

Dominique Poirier (our European correspondent) forwards a recent item from the London Times demonstrating that the ambitions and the potential scope of a state regulatory regime are limitless, as well as humorless.

Country and western has become so big in France that the country’s bureaucrats have decided to bring the craze under state control.

The French administration has moved to create an official country dancing diploma as part of a drive to regulate the fad. Authorised instructors who have been on publicly funded training courses will be put in charge of line dancing lessons and balls.

The rules, which come into force next year, come after the rapid spread of country and western in France, where an estimated 100,000 people line dance several times a week. Jean Chauveau, the chairman of the country section of the French Dance Federation, said: “It’s growing at a crazy rate. There are thousands of clubs and more are springing up all the time.”

He said the French shunned the square dancing that is popular among country and western fans in the United States because it involved physical contact. “They don’t want to take anyone by the hand or anything like that,” he said. But they were passionate about line dancing, where participants follow the steps without touching anyone else. “I think this corresponds to the individualism of our times,” Mr Chauveau said.

Village associations boast dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of members; competitions are flourishing, and a country music festival is expected to draw 150,000 people this summer, he said. “Britain caught the line dancing bug a long time before us, but now we are really going for it,” Mr Chauveau said. “It’s complete madness here.” …

In a peculiarly Gallic approach to the phenomenon, French civil servants say line dancing should be submitted to the same rules as sports such as football and rugby. This means imposing training courses for line dancing teachers and a state-approved diploma for anyone who wants to give lessons or run clubs.

Amateur instructors will have to take 200 hours of training under the new rules. Professionals will get 600 hours, including such subjects as line dancing techniques, “the mechanics of the human body” and the English (or at least Texan) language. They will also learn how to teach line dancing to the elderly.

The cost of the courses, about €2,000 (£1,570) for the professionals and €500 for the amateurs, will be largely met by taxpayers. Mr Chauveau said the regulations highlighted the French state’s obsessive desire to organise all public activity. “France is the only country in Europe apart from Greece where sport is controlled through the state,” he said. “Line dancing is now considered a sport, so it is being controlled, too.”

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