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Giant ‘No Dancing’ sign goes up in Golden Gate Park, delighting crowd

A group gathers below the “NO DANCING” art installation for a dance party in San Francisco on Saturday. The art installation, named “Over Ruled,” was previously shown at Burning Man and is now in Golden Gate Park. | Source: Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

Costumed families, Burners and assorted revelers got together Saturday afternoon in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for the unveiling of Looking Up Arts’ giant “NO DANCING” sign.

In spite of the red 12-foot-tall letters’ stern-sounding message, everyone who walks, bikes, jogs or skates past them is encouraged to dance to their heart’s content. It’s no coincidence that Skatin’ Place, the park’s own roller disco, is nearby.

Assembled in the days before Halloween, “NO DANCING’s” reveal drew hundreds of people to the park shortly before the sun went down as a DJ in a sea captain’s hat spun some uptempo remixes. 

The debut of the "NO DANCING" sign in Golden Gate Park on Saturday drew a crowd of costumed revelers.

Each of the nine letters is inscribed with a short, inspirational message from someone who ran afoul of somebody else’s rules, adding a bit of emotional complexity to the mix. While some people associated with the letters remain anonymous, two—each associated with an “N,” as it turned out—were present for the unveiling. 

One of them was Looking Up co-founder Cody Smith. It was a sweet moment for Smith, who had previously installed the sign at Burning Man this year, where it brought a little joy to the flooded playa. Dressed in a green marching-band jacket from an Alameda fair and skeleton-print pants—his costume was “Death March”—Smith wore sunglasses whose tinted lenses spelled N-O. Construction, he said, went smoothly.

“Only one snag,” Smith told The Standard. “We put one of the ground anchors in the wrong place, so we just welded a D-ring on the other side.”

Cody Smith attends the dance party marking the debut of "Over Ruled," aka the "NO DANCING" sign, in Golden Gate Park on Saturday. The piece was previously shown at Burning Man. | Source: Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

Dressed as a witch, Abby Sugden and her dog Louie ambled over from Pacific Heights to join the fun. How did she hear about it?

“Facebook!” she said. “And we saw it at Burning Man.”

A 3-year-old girl named Sierra, dressed as a pink bunny, blows bubbles toward a 2-year-old boy, Simon, who was dressed as Spider-Man, at a dance party on Saturday in Golden Gate Park. | Source: Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

Funded in part by Illuminate, the nonprofit that mounts large-scale works like JFK Drive’s Golden Mile and Market Street’s display of rainbow lasers for Pride Month, “NO DANCING” had the blessing of the city’s Recreation and Park Department.

The sign is also something of a tongue-in-cheek message about who can use the park’s main east-west roadway and for what. In November 2022, San Francisco voters rejected Proposition I, which would have reopened JFK Drive to vehicular traffic, by more than 20 points.

The sign is to remain in place for a year or so.