More about the Dances - Some History
The Dances were originally created in America over 40 years ago by Samuel Lewis (1896 - 1971) and were first danced in the late 1960's. Jewish by birth, he became both a Sufi teacher and a Rinzai Zen Master as well as studying in depth the traditions of Christianity and Hinduism. His Sufi teacher (from whom he drew his main inspiration for the Dances) was Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882 - 1927), who was the first to bring to the West the message of universal Sufism - that the truth at the heart of all religions is the same truth. Lewis was further inspired by the American contemporary dance pioneer, poet and mystic, Ruth St. Denis (1880 - 1968), and it was these two sources of inspiration, which combined to lead him to his vision of a dance form embodying this 'one truth' and allowing people their own experience of it.
In 1982, Neil Douglas-Klotz set up a centre to further the work begun by Samuel Lewis and to help make the Dances accessible to all. The 'International Network for the Dances of Universal Peace' is a registered, non-profit making organisation, based in the U.S.A., which has members worldwide. There is a Teacher's Guild which manages the training and supervision of Dance leaders and supports out-reach work to develop the Dances in new countries (particularly those whose economy is not strong or where there has been recent discord). There is an affiliated U.K. Network.
The Realms of the Heart
"The experience of the Dances goes out of the realms of language and into the realms of the heart." - Samuel Lewis
Since the very earliest of human history, and throughout the world, people have joined together in song, story and dance, whether for uncomplicated daily celebration or more complex rituals and ceremonies.
The Dances of Universal Peace, using simple words and music, easy steps and devotional style movements, are a continuation of this timeless expression. Danced mainly in a circle (a universal symbol of unity), using sacred phrases and other spiritually inspired songs, they aim to guide us peacefully toward the heart of our being, while also teaching something of the essence of the particular tradition which has inspired them, e.g. Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Sikh or one of the many Native Wisdom traditions.
Unity of Spiritual Traditions
Dancers celebrate the underlying unity of all the spiritual traditions while they move and sing any one of the many hundreds of Dances which have now been created. They may focus on specific themes, such as Healing (the Earth, individuals and the global family) or Peace and Harmony (both inner and outer). The Dances evoke many different energies besides those mentioned above and through this experience a greater appreciation and understanding of other cultures can be gained.