Dancing With Yourself: Silent Discos Expand to the Butler Bandshell
The words “silent” and “disco” seem like an inherent contradiction. But the sight of people dancing to live DJ-ed music broadcast to wireless headphones rimmed with blinking L.E.D. lights is well-known to those prone to taking strolls through Lithia Park in Ashland during summer evenings.
But those silent discos, courtesy of Silent Movement International, has outgrown their bell-bottomed britches.
“We were getting angry mobs at our events because we only had 100 headsets and there was always a line,” says the event’s founder, Jordan Rose.
So for this year’s silent disco season, the event’s third, Rose and company are expanding the event’s scope with more headsets, a larger venue, food trucks, and sponsorship from Ashland Parks and Recreation.
Every First Friday, from May 4 through October, Silent Movement International will be holding its silent discos at the Butler Bandshell in Lithia Park,
Because SMI has worked so closely with Parks and Rec. to put on the discos, Rose said it’s molded the organization into what it is today. Technically, SMI is a fiscally sponsored project of a larger 501c3 non-profit. Therefore, they request a donation of $5 per headset rental to keep the discos going.
Rose, Ashland native, said he’s been in the performance industry for about 15 years. He and his partner attended a silent disco in Portland and agreed they should bring it to Southern Oregon.
“It helps circumvent a lot of the red tape and ordinances that come with trying to do events in Ashland,” Rose said.
Rose said there’s a lack of entertainment for youth in town and works to cater the discos to all ages.
“We’ve had a lot of parents come to our events,” Rose said. “We’ve got a huge Burner community here in Ashland, and now they have kids.”
Because of the often-younger audiences at their events, the DJs spin music without profanity.
Last year they started projecting light shows, as well as live video-mapping and visuals. This year will bring some new additions as well including food trucks and interactive art. They’ll also host day discos which will be flash-advertised on their Facebook page.
Rose said the staff is entirely comprised of volunteers and all of the equipment is donated. Most funds raised at the events are donated to various non-profits showcased at the events including the Lotus Rising Project, Heartisan Youth Foundation and the Ashland Food Bank. The focus this year will be for the Ashland Parks Foundation.
“As a team, we’ve realized that we have a lot of great ideas for developmental youth programs,” Rose said. “We really lean towards youth support and education.”
They’re in the process of developing a program called Shadow Labs where kids can learn about the music production process, how to DJ and VJ, and use synthesizers from the volunteer DJs.
“Our ultimate goal is to have kids who are trained to do every aspect of what we do at the silent disco and then we can give them the equipment and help them facilitate their own fundraising event,” Rose said. “We want to teach them to think locally and empower them to create change and impact in the community.”
The goal is to have these programs up and running once the discos end in October.
“It encourages alternative forms of communication,” Rose said. “You can take your headphones off and have a conversation because there’s no music to talk over, then you put your headphones back on and you’re back in the music matrix where you’re communicating through movement.”
First Fridays, May-October
Butler Bandshell, Lithia Park, Ashland