New Dance Takes Off in Israel
Jul. 10, 1998
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ A new dance has taken off in Israel. Fans say the marathon, hypnotic whirl of head-bobbing and limb-flailing produces an indescribable high and expresses their yearning for peace and freedom.
But police and anti-drug organizations paint a different picture of ``trance-dancing,'' attributing the high to rampant use of LSD and Ecstasy, drugs they often confiscate during raids of Friday night parties deep in wooded nature reserves or on beaches.
While trance-dancers insist their movement is benign, some concede that drugs were part of its inspiration and can enhance the experience even today.
The debate over trance-dancing _ youth fad or catalyst for drug use? _ came to a head Thursday, when thousands of Israelis gathered at a square in Tel Aviv to dance off their anger at authorities, whom they say are unfairly targeting trance-dance parties in their search for drugs. Forty-two people were arrested on suspicion of drug-trafficking.
Israel is a leading manufacturer of the computer-generated sound that has swept thousands of Israelis between the ages of 20-30 into a psychedelic subculture. Police say they have nothing against ``trancers,'' as they call themselves, or the thumping music that inspires them. They insist they're just opposed to the presence of illegal drugs.
``We assume there are people who can dance for hours without drugs. But the Ecstasy and LSD sold at these parties gives them hours of energy, and the music and the drugs together help achieve a greater high,'' said Orit Shapira-Heiman, head of drug research at the intelligence division of Israel's national police.
But organizers of Thursday's ``Give Trance a Chance'' protest dismissed police claims.
``I ran for close to 24 hours some days in the army without any sleep and no one thought I was taking drugs then,'' said Eyal Mirelman, a 24-year-old student working on a documentary about the trance scene.
After police shut down a trance party last month at the home of popular Israeli socialites, despite finding no drugs, several left-wing lawmakers voiced their support for the trance movement, inviting musicians to the Knesset to explain it to conservative legislators.
Mirelman and others said Thursday that the stressful political realities of living in the Middle East drew people to the trance culture.
``We have the pressures of the army, a tense political situation and a difficult economy to deal with,'' said Amir Ginat, who designs many of the glow-in-the-dark decorations that appear at trance parties.
Shapira-Heiman said the trance phenomenon began about ten years ago, when large groups of Israeli army veterans began traveling to beach resorts in southern India such as Goa, where they first experimented with drugs.
After returning to Israel, many tried to recreate the uninhibited experience by organizing all-night dance parties outdoors.
Ginat said his designs, which include distorted swinging butterflies in neon colors, smiling alligators and rapidly spinning pinwheels in bright pink and orange, add to the trance high.
``Of course, if you're on acid, the party becomes wonderland,'' he said, grinning.