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The Dances Of Universal Peace
by Tom DeJardin
What are the Dances of Universal Peace? Are they anything like Sufi Dancing?

Whether you ask an experienced dancer, a dance leader, or a “first timer,” you could still get a range of responses.

For example, answers could include, “Simple dance steps to basic melodies using a sacred phrase or word from a faith tradition.” Or, “The hundreds of dances that have been created to foster peace.” Another is “A spiritually enhancing experience.” Or even, “Multi-cultural folk dances that use sacred phrases from many of the world’s spiritual traditions with the aim of creating a living experience of unity.”

A minimalist might just say, “Prayers put to movement.”

And all would be correct.

The dances began in the early 1960s, inspired by a master of many faith traditions, Samuel L. Lewis. They quickly caught on, spread and multiplied. Those first few dances are now among the hundreds of peace dances that have since been created by other dance leaders.

Originally a part of western Sufi esoteric practice and called Sufi Dancing, an expanded number and range of dances has been made available to the world, and they are now collectively referred to as “the Dances of Universal Peace.” The Dances allow participants to experience the richness of other faith traditions while at the same time allowing the deepening appreciation of one’s own tradition.

One of Samuel L. Lewis’ basic beliefs was that people “who sing, dance and pray together” might foster peace in the world. By celebrating the various sacred traditions of humankind, we will recognize differences as treasures, not threats to cooperation. That basic belief has sustained the continued attraction and growth of the Dances. The Dances are now enjoyed in circles throughout the world.

Each dance is different. Some elicit exquisite joy. Others encourage deep spiritual connection. And others create a wonderful sense of peace among all within that Dance circle. All touch the heart.

Each dance is fully taught. It does not matter if you are a first-timer, or a ten-year veteran. Young and old are welcome to participate in the spirit of the dances. However, it is only fair to warn newcomers of what the old-timers already know: that the combined effect of rhythmic movements, melodies and intoning sacred phrases within an atmosphere of shared harmony within a circle, can cause an altered state of magnificent bliss. At times bright sparkles of tears can be seen on the faces of joy-filled dancers.

In Portland, the Dances are held every Tuesday night at 7:30 PM at Grace Episcopal Memorial Church at 16th and NE Weidler. In Beaverton they are held on the second and fourth Sundays at Unity of Beaverton, at 5th and Angel.

In addition, the Dances have been invited to numerous places of worship and other spiritually focused events, including the City’s Hands Around Portland, leading hundreds of dancers for the first time.

For more information, please come to one of the regularly scheduled dance meetings to experience them for yourself, or call Devi at 503-238-7603, or Chela at 503-293-6583.