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Each week, 50-80 Applegaters get together for stretching and free-form movement to ambient live DJ music. It’s called ‘Ecstatic Dance’ and since its inception in 2000 in Hawaii by Max Fathom, it’s spread across the globe. Initially, it popped up in population centers like Berlin, Amsterdam, New York, and Barcelona, but eventually became common in smaller towns. Still, having Ecstatic Dance in an area as remote as the Applegate Valley is unusual.

“It’s definitely one-of-a-kind in Oregon,” says Mika Smith. Smith is one of the coordinators of the weekly event, held  at the Williams Grange, or the Sugarloaf Community Park. He is part of a collective that took on the event after the original organizer moved to Hawaii and gifted the sound mixer and speakers to the community. “I think it really elevates the health and well-being of the community,” Smith explains. “It invites people to come together in a welcoming, safe, and celebratory space.”

As special as it is to have Ecstatic Dance in a rural setting , Smith says the downside is the lack of diversity. “Here in beautiful southern Oregon, there is a fairly limited diversity of people, dating back to Oregon being a white state.” To counter this, Mika and the collective decided to prioritize DJs that were women and people of diverse backgrounds.

They were able to find women DJs, but ethnic diversity was harder to come by. The DJs they did find were not from the local area. The puzzle became: How do you do increase diversity when very few non-white DJs live here? They realized they’d have to invite DJs from elsewhere.

Smith saw that their hope to bring in different DJs intersected with the Applegate Valley Vision’s goal of making the Valley “Prosperous and Vital” as well as “Inclusive and Engaged.” The Applegate Valley Vision is an 89-page resident-inspired document that details future aspirations for the Applegate Valley. Seeing this overlap with the Vision, Smith was inspired to apply for an Innovation Grant from A Greater Applegate to cover the travel expenses of visiting DJs.

The dance community in Williams was super grateful for that grant,” Smith says. “Our dances clearly reflect a greater diversity of attendees when the DJ is of a diverse background.”

Smith is now thinking how to keep the momentum going into the future. He knows it’s a work in progress. “There’s probably more diversity that shows up at Ecstatic Dance than most of the other community events that happen out here‑—both in terms of age and background. It really does show up here. We just want it to show up more.”

Ecstatic Dance continues to gather every week from noon to 2pm either at the Sugarloaf Community Association Park, or the Williams Grange.