Boris Charmatz is out to make the world dance. Only weeks after getting 20,000 people to dance over 10 hours on the tarmac of Berlin’s old Tempelhof airport, the French dancer and choreographer is about to repeat the trick at the vast 104 arts centre in Paris.

He described his Crazy For Dance happening as not just a “mega bash” but a mass initiation into the joys and mysteries of modern dance classics, from Isadora Duncan to Lucinda Childs. “It’s about forming a dancing community,” he said.

When you can attract 20,000 people to an old airport to dance, “clearly you are responding to a need”, he said.

And 44-year-old Charmatz fills that need by taking his audiences by the hand through great contemporary pieces, some of his own work which can be danced by anyone, and joyous cult moves from the 1970s US television series Soul Train.

“We go from a warm-up to a rehearsal with the public to create a piece, to a kind of living exhibition of dance with a whole forest of solos” by professional dancers which people can watch or try to copy themselves, he said.

At Berlin, he had everything from traditional Greco-Turkish “zeybek” dances to the cutting edge Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. In Paris, he will also take in hip-hop and Breton folk steps.

“The idea is that we share the culture of choreography,” said Charmatz, who also heads a dance conservatory in the western French city of Rennes, which he has turned into what he calls the “Dancing Museum”.

All of which has made him into one of the rising stars of dance, a huge irony for someone who comes from the “non-dance” movement. Non-dance was born in the mid-1990s by mixing dance with art and video, with one-off performances often in public spaces such as squares and railway stations.

“I like the idea that dance is something bigger than a show in a theatre, that it can also be something you can do on YouTube or in the shower,” Charmatz added. “They called us pseudo intellectuals,” he recalled.

“But we became extremely popular in museums,” with Charmatz himself putting on performances in a string of major galleries, from MoMa in New York to Tate Modern in London. “MoMa and Tate Modern have been pioneers for the last 15 years of what a museum could be in the 21st century. Not only a museum of objects but also of thought, movement and performance,” he said.

Charmatz has been credited with bringing a new public to museums, but he insists on his events being free.

“It allows you to create differently. In Rennes when we did Crazy For Dance there we had 16,000 people. There were people who were going to the cinema or out doing their shopping who came across it and joined in. Would they do that if they had to pay?” he asked.

“I really believe in it being free. We often talk about making things accessible, but for me being free opens up all sorts of interesting artistic possibilities too. If you go to an opera, you get your ticket in advance and you go as if you were going into a shrine.” – AFP Relaxnews