Sunday evening in Laurelhurst Park along Bus 75. You can hear horseshoes clanging, kids playing, and wind sifting through the pines. Shadows lengthen as the sun sinks. On the grass near the pond, shadows are in motion – sweeping and twirling – reflecting the movement of people in headphones dancing to Heartbeat Silent Disco.
“It’s happy dancing – some say hippie dancing,” says a gentleman in snappy shorts and a fedora. “It’s like when you were a little kid dancing in front of a mirror before your bath. You’re doing your thing.” His daughter, doing her thing next to him, describes it as “dancing in your living room with 200 people.”
What brought them here? The fedora man says, “I lost a daughter seven years ago. She was always into ecstatic dancing. When she died I decided to try it. I’ve been going ever since.” Ecstatic dance is a free form dance where you become one with your body through movement to music. A religious experience in motion.
“It’s like an escape,” says another dancer. “You only hear the music – nothing else. With live music you hear other people, noises, you hear yourself breathing. With Silent Disco it’s just the music. You really get into it. The music connects people.”
Not everyone dances. Some sit on blankets or lawn chairs sipping on the scene. Others are hula-hooping, flinging frisbees and blowing bubbles turning the air into champagne. It’s an eclectic crowd.
In short, you can party with loud music and the neighbors won’t hear a peep. That rocks.
The man behind the music is known simply as Takimba. He’s a KBOO DJ with a local following that listen to his show “The Melting Pot” (Tuesday nights). “I used to ask people to go out and buy a cheap AM/FM transistor radio,” Takimba says. “Then on my show I would tell them where to go to meet others – a park or someplace – to dance to the music through their radio. Heartbeat grew from there.”
For Heartbeat Silent Disco, Takimba upped the technology with help from a source in India. They created a wireless system where high-powered transmitters broadcast to a local network of headphones (within 1,500 meters). Three different sound channels are available, though only one is used in the dances at Laurelhurst.
“Laurelhurst is a nice place to do it,” Takimba says, “but we move it around – like Peninsula Park and Skidmore Bluffs. We can do it anywhere.” He has a crowd that will follow, even if they don’t dance. Some just go along for the vibe.
The music crosses genres and continents according to their website – from “down tempo and hip-hop to house, breaks and electronica.” DJ FunkTone who plays music for Silent Disco says, “The music is all pretty unknown, except by younger kids who are up on it.” Headphones are $5 each. You give them back when you leave and return to your normal audio existence.