Waiter, DJ, headphones, rules, games: could this be York’s perfect Valentine’s date?

Binaural Dinner Date: the alternative Valentine’s Day date, so alternative that the date will be on the day after Valentine’s Day

PAY attention hopeful singletons and curious couples seeking an alternative Valentine’s Day date with a difference.

York’s Taste of SLAP Saturday curators and directors Lydia Cottrell and Sophie Unwin are bringing immersive and digital performance innovators ZU-UK to York Theatre Royal this weekend to set up the post-Valentine Binaural Dinner Date.

On the traditional sporting match day of the week, matches of a different kind will be taking place in the Theatre Royal café at 3pm, 5pm and 7.45pm, when ZU-UK will be asking “audiences to swipe right and join them for an experiential dating experience”.

“Come with your own date, or we can find one for you,” they say, emphasising that booking is required as soon as possible on 01904 623568, at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk or in person at the Theatre Royal box office.

What will happen on Saturday? “Using binaural sound, participants will be guided by a voice in their ears to ask each other questions, offer answers, and consider the dos and don’ts of what we say, and what we would like to say, to each other on a date,” say ZU-UK, a company with its art and its heart in both London and Brazil.

“What are we really thinking when we meet for the first time? How much are we prepared to confess? And are the questions we ask each other the questions that will help us find love?” 

Binaural Dinner Date is “part interactive performance, part dating agency” for individuals looking for love, or existing couples who simply want a “very different” dating encounter

It will take place at nine tables simultaneously, where the aforementioned voice in the ear of every participant will steer them through a “perfect” date. Wearing headphones, two participants per table will be hosted by a waiter/facilitator/DJ, complemented by “interactively mixed binaural audio” with suggestions and comments on dating “rules”, as well as games pushing social expectations and “acceptable” table-talk topics. 

Jorge Lopes Ramos, ZU-UK’s co-artistic director, says: “ZU-UK’s artistic work has never shied away from engaging with urgent, problematic and at times depressing aspects of the contemporary human condition.

“This is a time to question mainstream narratives and to consider our role in shaping communities and relationships between strangers. Dating seemed like a contemporary human ritual worth exploring.”

Formerly known as Zecora Ura and Para Active, ZU-UK is an independent theatre and digital arts company based in East London and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, since 2001. Driven by an artistic partnership between Ramos and Persis Jadé Maravala, ZU-UK creates interactive experiences, using games, performance and technology, that can happen anywhere, whether on the phone, in the house, on a stage, in a shopping mall or a field. 

Binaural Dinner Date is the first instalment in ZU-UK’s ten-part series Decalogy of Loneliness. After ZU’s Hotel Medea in 2009 to 2012 and the interactive technology exhibition Humble Market in 2012 to 2014, they have been developing ten artworks as part of this project.

Since 2015, they have worked with Canadian research institute TAG (Technoculture, Arts and Games), using game-design to deepen ZU’s work with immersive, participatory and interactive performance. 

Over the next three years, ZU will develop the remaining parts of the Decalogy, focusing on the relationship between strangers in public and private spaces. The company also will  present two digital artworks using public phones, #RioFoneHackand How Mad Are You? , and a binaural prototype, Small Data Mining.

Suitable for age 16 plus, Binaural Dinner Date is part of SLAP organisers Lydia Cottrell and Sophie Unwin’s Taste Of SLAP, a day of food-themed shows under their Social Live Art Performance banner (although, if memory serves right, SLAP initially stood for Salacious Live Alternative Performance when the festival was first set up!).

Full details of Taste of SLAP can be found at slapyork.co.uk and a further preview will appear online at charleshutchpress.co.uk. Tickets for this weekend’s taster carry a “Pay What You Can” price tag.

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