In Paris, people defy lockdown by dancing in the street

A resident has been trying to keep people’s spirits up with his music, but something went wrong

Paris dance
Video of Parisians dancing in the street this weekend triggered buzz and criticism on social networks | Photo: Instagram

The itch to dance, to break out of coronavirus lockdown and bust a few moves in the fresh air, out on the street, has proved too strong for some to resist in Paris after weeks of staying home.

Video of Parisians dancing in the street this weekend, some wearing face masks, triggered buzz and criticism on social networks and an apology Sunday from the out-of-work theater technician who blasted the music from his balcony.

Nathan Sebbagh has been thanking medics and trying to keep people’s spirits up with half-hour hip-shaking musical selections on Saturday evenings. But his goodwill gesture, which he dubs @discobalcons in his Instagram postings, this weekend became a victim of its own success.

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Police knocked at his door and gave him a talking to after a small but frisky crowd gathered and danced under the balcony of his apartment in Montmartre. “There were a lot of people. The square was quite full. Some people were far too close,” Sebbagh acknowledged somewhat sheepishly in a phone interview on Sunday.

The police “said that music on balconies is a very good idea but not like this, it’s too dangerous,” he said.

Among his musical offerings on Saturday was “Let me Dance” by Egyptian-born songbird Dalida. She lived in Montmartre before her death in 1987 and a square is named in her honour.

A video posted by a journalist showed police vehicles rolling up as the song played and people danced. The images provoked hostile comments on social media, with critics arguing that such behavior during France’s lockdown in place since March 17 risked spreading the virus.

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Paris police tweeted, with “be responsible” and “stay home” hashtags, that the dancers didn’t respect social distancing rules. Sebbagh said it wasn’t his intention to draw a crowd.

The 19-year-old said he carted the loudspeakers over from the now closed theater where he worked before the lockdown solely to add a bit of musical zest to the stay-home lives of his neighbours. “I was missing human contact and music,” he said.

He said he wholeheartedly supports medical staff battling the pandemic and that he was sorry if he upset them. “It’s true, people are cracking up. But we are in a very complicated and particular situation,” he said. “The aim is to come out alive.”

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