You can mix light and sound, air and water, past and future at one extraordinary dance-music event each month in Eastern Europe.

During the Cinetrip evenings in Budapest, revellers bathe in hot water steaming up from the depths of the earth while the medieval baths complex around them pulsates to house and techno sounds while glimmering with cinematic and slide-show projections on walls and ceilings.

Budapest’s Rudas thermal bath complex is one of seven thermal bath-houses in Hungary’s capital. Over 120 thermal-water sources bubble up through Budapest – but this one is different.

The Rudas is a Turkish bath whose structure dates back to at least to the 16th century, during the Ottoman occupation. That’s right – Turkish baths actually built by Turks.

Reserved for men only for its entire existence, it now is suddenly open to young people of both sexes – but only for these once-a-month Cinetrip events (known locally as Vizimozi). The next is on February 2nd.

The first entry of women into the mysterious inner bathing sanctum for over 400 years? “Don’t you think there have been events like this here in previous centuries?” countered our friend Rob with a knowingly cynical raised eyebrow as we stood up to our chests in hot mineral water, bathed in a single demonic red spotlight. The shifting shadows of chatting groups in bathing suits sploshing in the steamy background, with soft trance-track sounds burbling all round, gave pause for thought. Well, maybe he was right, yes….

Meanwhile glowing light shows stream across the roof of the domed and collonnaded Turkish bath. The steam rises, every surface glistens, and people swim through coloured lights underwater, wriggling like mermaids to the music.

Then at midnight comes a belly dancing show, a lithe woman expressing in dance just what we were all thinking anyway.

Sexy. Cinetrips are sexy. And add underwater music from underground DJs to accompany all the overhead lighting, and videos….

You won’t find this anywhere else; a slowed-down rave in the decadent and relaxing tradition of the ancient world. Perhaps the Eastern Roman Empire lives on after all.

Under the Turkish dome that covers a 36 degrees Celcius hot pool of sulfurous water, a red light is cast upon belly dancers as they rehearse for a uniquely Hungarian creation. Now Cinetrip is in its third year. Here, where rave meets contemporary arts, several hundred people mostly under the age of thirty attend the hottest party in Budapest. And the event is also fast becoming one of Hungary’s hottest creative exports.

In the lobby, twenty somethings dance to remixed funk in their bikinis. Inside the baths, the belly dancers have taken over the area around the hot pool. And at the usually-quiet swimming pool, hordes of mostly Hungarian youngsters ‘dance’ in the shallow end. Upstairs in the gallery, organizer Laki Lu stands in front of a monitor and a projector, flicking switches to the beat. He’s projecting old seventies film footage of Olympic shotputters onto two huge screens above the swimming pool, while local DJ NanDee stands next to him pumping the techno music. The walls are covered in turquoise and orange projections like fractured stained glass.

The event was the brainchild of two dreadlocked impresarios – 33 year-old artistic director Laki Lu and his 26 year-old partner Eva Galos. Back in 1997, they came up with the idea as an outdoor gathering of friends.

But he needed financial support for the idea. So of all the unlikely places to turn, he called the British Council. And he found an ally in then British Council arts manager Andrea Gancs, who has since become Cinetrip’s manager.

Cinetrip has been such a success that it’s taking off elsewhere. Laki has received invitations to hold 40 gigs at contemporary-arts festivals all over France during the summer. And the event will probably tour Australia.

You might wonder though how Cinetrip can take place anywhere other than Budapest. What about thermal waters, that key component? But London’s Royal Festival Hall, the baroque, central square of the Italian city Turin, and the bridges over the River Seine in Paris are among the places where Cinetrips have by now taken place. The concept is simple: to take any venue seemingly hostile to youth culture, and transform it through visual and audio effects. Upcoming venues include a cement submarine-holding tank built by Hitler in Bordeaux in 1942, and the Paris Stock Exchange.

While back in the New East, Hungarian party culture continues to delve into history to teach the panicky present how to relax, and how to _really_ unwind.

Text: Judy Finn, Heather Hermant and Mark Griffith From Live Budapest
Photos: Ryder Thornton

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