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Culture

'Ugly' dancing celebrated as art form in German contest

In normal dance competitions, it's the best dancers who receive the award but at the Ugly Dance World Cup in Hamburg, the winners were those who made the biggest impact with their unconventional moves.

A male dancer in pink make-up and fair wings competes in the Ugly Dance competition

The Ugly Dance Worldcup celebrated off-beat moves

The music playing at the Terrace Hill club in Hamburg is not particularly appealing. In fact, it is rather ugly. And this makes it a perfect match to tonight's theme: the Ugly Dance World Cup.

Four young men in their early twenties are dancing on the stage - or just moving about strangely to tacky 90s party music, depending on how you see it. One of them is jumping around and flailing his arms, out of sync with the music. Another is holding his hands bashfully over his crotch, while yet another just stands there, pretending to play a recorder.

This is not something that most would describe as an artistic performance - but according to Florian Schueppel, the event's manager, it is.

"Ugly Dance is the art of unattractive dancing," said Schueppel. "We are not looking for bad dancers, but people who do ugly dancing artfully."

The winner is the one who gets booed the most

The four young men on the stage call themselves Dezentiner (decent ones) and have travelled here from a small town 150 kilometers away. They hope to win this competition and become world champions in ugly dancing. They put a lot of effort into their application entry, which involved uploading a video of their dance onto YouTube. It made the top ten entries.

Tonight, the performing act that receives the most boos from the audience wins. To increase their chances of coming first, Dezentiner have developed a special style that ranges from "dancing wildly to standing around shyly," according to group member Michael Beth, alias "Shy Guy."

The Ugly Dance World Cup is mostly about having fun, but Schueppel says it is also about creativity and art.


"The artistic part of it is doing what the audience doesn't expect," explained Schueppel. "Movements that are unknown, being out of rhythm, mixing styles - there is a lot of room for ugliness there."

The crowd at the Terrace Hill Club wave their arms in the air while local journalists film the performances

The Terrace Hill Club in Hamburg was packed with fans of unconventional moves as the competitors strutted their stuff

Ugly aesthetics


However, the concept of celebrating what is not conventionally attractive is not so new. German philosopher Karl Rosenkranz described the "aesthetic of ugliness" 150 years ago, claiming that ugliness should have its place in art.

This evening's show brings Rosenkranz's theory to life. Ten teams from Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland are competing for the title. At around eleven the preliminary round is in full swing. The Chucklines of Norris - two young women from Luxembourg - come onto the stage. They are wearing pink leggings, strange sweatbands and oversized silk blouses. They throw themselves repeatedly on the floor, wave their legs about, jump up again and dance out of rhythm.

Role models for reluctant dancers?

The two want their "ugliness" to be taken seriously, but their act seems to make a rather cute impression. Two male groups make it into the final round: Inferno Ragazzi, who show a lot of skin, and the Dezentiner. The latter manage to win the audience's approval with their signature move, "Shy Dance."

With the cup in their hands, the group conveys its message to the dancers of this world: "Try to dance in an ugly way. Make yourselves different from the masses, just like we did."

Author: Manfred Goetzke (ew)

Editor: Gavin Blackburn

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