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The Zoo Project raises our vibrations at 2017 opening

Connecting through the power of dance at Benimussa Park.

We've been dancing together since before the birth of the earliest human civilisations. Oh yes, archaeologists have found traces of us lot sweating it out from the prehistoric times, whether that be as part of ceremonies, rituals, celebrations or purely as entertainment. So, dancing is proved to be pretty damn important to our mental and physical wellbeing. It's a way for us to communicate, bond and express ourselves.

What that little historical info is leading to is The Zoo Project 2017 opening, because while every single music event in Ibiza can be defined as a gathering to do all of the above, the Zoo crew at Benimussa Park do it differently.

Over the three seasons that I've lived here, a few Saturdays have been spent within Benimussa Park's sprawling enclosure - Ibiza's abandoned zoo. Regardless of whichever open-air area I've been in – whether that be the Seal Pit, the Treehouse or the Mandala Garden – each has always been absolutely buzzing with action. The Zoo crew's ethos of connecting family and friends with dance and music, stands up to speculation – it's been going for over ten years, after all.

This opening went a little differently. While I always check in with the more spiritually-attuned Mandala Garden, this time I spent some time with co-creator of the Zoo Project, Lubka Pajer, to get a good grip on what goes on here. In the past, reviews have tended to have more focus on the pulsating beat heard at the other stages. And with previous guests including Ricardo Villalobos, George Fitzgerald, Moodymann, Scuba, Monika Kruse, Jeremy Underground, Margaret Dygas and Seth Troxler, you'd struggle to berate anyone for such a move.

The Mandala Garden is bang in the middle of the festival-style venue, and in there you have an amphitheatre style setup, with the centre of the arena displaying an elaborate hand drawn mandala. This symbolises the coming together of an international collective, with the shared goal of connecting and raising of our frequencies and vibrations through music and dance.

People that come to Zoo are very authentic and more than open to experience and try something totally new. As I found out from the creator of the Zoo Project, every week they offer a dance workshop here that allows people to connect with their inner child through dancing together and liberating their bodies through free movement. Dancing, skipping, running, shouting – do it all, and do it well. Get yourselves in there willing to release your emotions and get loose. The feedback from clubbers is says it all. Tears have even been spilled by guys and gals, so be prepared to wipe those faces dry.

Feeling fully-charged, only then did I venture into the zones where electronic music reigns supreme. Passing the Treehouse with Zoo project regular Funk E, he was burying himself in grooving, minimalist heat, before accelerating with Floorplan's track Let's Ride. What a tune that is, and if you have the ability to hear that coming in before the indecipherable high-pitched vocal hits, you're laughing, literally. Funk E was visibly getting off on that relentless, bustling techno thump that pushes you to get into an unhinged state.

Meanwhile, the Seal Pit was where the most bodies were contained with Portal DJs doing the damage. You had your chicas doused in glitter, the men in flamingo and bee suits, and Patrick Topping's tech house mix of Raumakustik's track Dem A Pree in the mix.

After a short ‘n sweet music blast, I was back in the Mandala Garden for the Spiral Heart session. Returning to what Lubka had previously mentioned, this was another opportunity to bring together more intimately with music and dancing. Ana and Valentin had everyone united in a circle, before having them move round as one, and I'm telling you, all you saw was smiles.

The Ibango Tribe Drum Gathering took us beautiful into sunset. This was a completely new addition to the event, with drummers coming from across the island – including Benirras which is famous for the Sunday sunset drumming ritual. I won't be alone in saying that I hope this hypnotic event returns throughout the season.

If it sounds like I've been humming on about the art of dancing a little bit in this review, it's because I have, and I'm about to do it again. If you've spent the latter hours in the Seal Pit, then you'll know that the music combined with the performances is absolutely magic as darkness moves in.

One of the best dancers I've seen on this island broke out from the smoke and performed an incredible solo to Marvin & Guy's instrumental version of Superior Conjunction. From there Rampa's remix of Deep Musique by the Pastaboys Feat. Osunlade provided the soundtrack to an athletic performance from the men, which swung in acrobatics, breakdancing and Capoeira. It was nothing short of inspiring in getting us off our backsides and exploring the full potential of our bodies.

FUSE resident Seb Zito – what an eclectic monster of a set he pulled out. If you have an appreciation for being pulled from East to West, then he had you. Golden oldie house cuts were laid down with Cajmere's 1994 weapon Brighter Days and Friend Within's The Renegade. Deep tech had its say as Johny D's Nokey jumped in. And then, slap bang out of nowhere, he switched up the frequency field and dug out some ‘80s reggae with Wa-Do-Dem from Eek-A-Mouse.

I think it goes without saying, I had a fantastic night and left feeling rather contented. Cheesy as hell. I even looked at the stars and pondered what kind of creatures inhabit the galaxies out there, before leaving a voice note to myself, which I can't even bear listening to. Go to The Zoo Project, and make sure the Mandala Garden is on that itinerary.

PHOTOGRAPHY l Gabriel Sergent

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