Sentinel & Enterprise Staff
LEOMINSTER -- The room was silent, aside from the occasional holler, laugh, and the shuffling of feet, but the dancers were transported to a club located in their own heads during the Public Library's first-ever "Silent Disco" on Tuesday night.
"The mood was set by a colorful spinning disco ball light, the green glow from the headphones, and the glow sticks in everyone's hands. Ninties-era snacks such as Gushers, Ring Pops, and Bagel Bites were out for the taking," said Sondra Murphy, the library's director, describing the scene.
As the participants entered the library, each was greeted and given a pair of wireless headphones, with the sound muffs glowing in fluorescent colors, and listened to music through a transmitter.
"This created an environment for people that can help to lessen self-consciousness and lower inhibitions," said Murphy, including an additional benefit.
"For those attending on the spectrum, headphones can offer protection from the outside world, and allow them to focus on one thing at a time," she said. "And for people who are anxious or lonely, the 'Silent Disco' provided a safe and inclusive place to gather, provide fun and entertainment, and gave people the ability to connect with others."
Even those who were timid at first, she said, eventually joined the large circle and danced non-stop. Despite the lack of verbal communication, there was communication in the form of body language and laughter.
"Connections formed organically through a shared love of lyrics, 90s-themed snacks and glow sticks. At one point, a 'Soul Train'-style dance line formed, and dancers cheered on each other's signature moves," said Murphy. "It was an extraordinary event that broke down barriers."
Although the intention was to appeal to "Millennials" in the Leominster community, she said, the dancers varied in age, race, ability, and background.
"When we consider the mission of the Public Library, to offer collections, programs, and services to all kinds of people, the Silent Disco typified that mission," she said.
Some might see it just as a dance party, but it was so much more; it allowed community members to be themselves in a safe environment that is welcoming and substance-free, said Murphy.
Murphy thanked the Friends of the Leominster Public Library for funding this event.