The 'raw art' of slow dance [pg. 24]

Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, known to many as the site of raucous political rallies - including the tragic one that resulted in the death of Yitzhak Rabin - will be the location for a more harmonious event, running from April 5 to April 7. For a consecutive 48 hours, couples will slow-dance on a raised platform to popular standards in what is being called a Slow Dance Marathon. The public is invited to view the dancers at all hours of the day or night. The performance art event, jointly sponsored by the Tel Aviv municipality and the Raw Art Gallery in Tel Aviv, was conceived by Cypriot artist Christodoulos Panayiotou and last presented in 2005 in Thessaloniki, where Israeli curator Tal Ben-Zvi was a guest. At that staging, Ben-Zvi was impressed by the vulnerability of the dancers, who were alone on stage with no choreography and were forced to respond to the music and each other in an entirely improvised way. She immediately thought of bringing the spectacle to Rabin Square, a space for public expression and a common spot both for official ceremonies and for informal community use. The unique location, to which Panayiotou responded enthusiastically, may add new flavor to the artist's original vision. "The emphasis on individuals within a public forum is important for the Israeli public. The marathon is not a show or a quick virtuoso performance, but an intimate, low-key experience which requires patience from the audience," Ben Zvi comments. Yet the curator also adds that the event will not be all flowers and candy. Despite the saccharine soundtrack and the ultra-romantic atmosphere, there is a sense of cruelty to the act of watching couples improvise smooth moves. "You feel left-out. It kind of takes you back to your teenage years, where you are watching the fun, but you can't really participate," she says. Hundreds of young Israelis have expressed their desire to get involved as volunteer dancers. On March 17, they gathered at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque to meet the artist and hopefully get chosen as one of the dancers. The 96 lucky participants, handpicked by Panayiotou at the event, are all amateurs between the ages of 20 and 40 and will be paired with partners randomly, based on when they are free to dance. They may be matched with a member of the opposite or the same sex, depending on their request. Each couple will dance for an hour before exiting the stage to make room for the next duo. Following the event, video footage of the marathon will be on display at the Raw Art Gallery, a space for contemporary art in the newly developed area around Tel Aviv's former central bus station.