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Dance Yourself Happy – At a New Dance Format at Gasteig HP8

Ralf Otto is a cultural mediator and DanceAbility teacher. With his new series at the Gasteig HP8, he aims to give everyone the opportunity to dance – regardless of age, physical fitness and experience.

Large room with dark curtains from ceiling to floor, in the center of the picture people making dance movements
The DanceAbility workshops are open to everyone and free to attend. Copyright: Benedikt Feiten/Gasteig

What is DanceAbility and what is the idea behind this format?

DanceAbility is a contemporary form of social dance that allows people to develop their own dance style. Everyone can take part, whether they’re seasoned dancers or have never danced before, and regardless of physical condition. The important point is that it’s not a dance class, where you learn steps that you have to memorise. My dancers and I merely give impulses, which the participants can interpret in whatever way feels right for them. Using their diversity of movement, we then develop small choreographies together.

Portrait photo of Ralf Otto in front of green deciduous tree
After a life crisis, Otto decided to dedicate himself only to developing projects that enrich participants’ lives and promote togetherness. Copyright: Ralf Otto

You talk about differences in physicality. Specifically, this means that, as well as there being no age boundaries, people with physical disabilities can also take part. Does that mean inclusion is one of your main goals?

I quite deliberately don’t talk about inclusion, but rather about dancing together to prevent isolation. Each and every one of us know how desperate it feels to be isolated for whatever reason. I always adapt the choice of exercises, the music and the language I use to the current situation to try and include everyone present. The result is a moment of inclusiveness. DanceAbility is not about adapting common dance routines to the needs of people with physical disabilities; DanceAbility in its very essence is designed for everyone. There’s a difference: We are low-key, but we have expectations. It can get challenging and strenuous. For everyone – for those with and without disabilities alike. That’s often what people love about it, exactly because everyone is in the same boat. And that’s why everyone can truly take part and enjoy the experience.

“Every single dance meeting is a unique adventure because the composition of people is new every time.”

Ralf Otto, DanceAbility trainer

What’s the appeal for you of bringing this format to the Gasteig HP8?

For me, DanceAbility is a setting in which people renegotiate their lives together, where people find a new way of interacting with each other. It takes away the fear of social interaction between people with and without disabilities, between young and old, between people from Germany and those with a migrant background. You get to know each other on an entirely different level and meet people you would never have encountered otherwise. The Gasteig HP8, as an open space and cultural meeting point in Sendling is an ideal place for this.

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