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Peace Dancing

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Peace dancing, or 'Dances of Universal Peace' as they are known, were created by Samuel Lewis (1896-1971) in America in the late 1960s, following a vision at the tomb of a Sufi saint in India. He saw the dances as a dynamic method to promote peace through the arts1.

Words are not peace, thoughts are not peace, plans are not peace, programmes are not peace. Peace is fundamental to all faiths, all religions, all spirituality.
- Samuel Lewis, 1939

What Are the Dances?

Peace dances bring an experience of praying and dancing in celebration of diversity and honour the unity of all people.

Peace dances use sacred phrases which are sung, and generally manifest themselves as a 'circle form' of dancing. (Although there are other forms, such as two lines facing each other, as in Jewish dances.)

The words are sometimes in English, sometimes in other languages, for example, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Native American, Russian, Korean and Asian languages.

The dances are meditative in character, although some are quite lively. The dancers attune themselves to the dance, which is lead by a dance leader and accompanied by music. The movements are simple folk movements drawn from the world's traditions and generated from the feelings of the phrases. Anyone can do the dances, including the disabled and those with learning disabilities.

The dances can be said to use therapeutic movement as a way to heal the personal as well as the global roots of war and peace.

What Kind of Music is Used?

Strictly speaking, the dances do not need to be accompanied by music. Some dances work better without it. Usual accompaniments to the dance are drums and guitar. The dance leader may play an instrument, or the accompaniment may be provided by others. In the dance, the musician is the servant of the dance leader.

Who Leads the Dances?

Dance leaders or teachers undergo formal training - often lasting two years - including work with body awareness, breath, walks (including planetary walks and spins), unity of religious ideals and of course, the dances themselves.

During the dances, sound should fill the body with resonance and a genuine feeling for each tradition celebrated; it is important that the teacher is able to foster this feeling.

Dancing with the Divine

Many of the dances are partner dances where each dancer progresses from one partner to the next. In a partner dance, you are dancing with the divine and the person you are dancing with represents an aspect of divinity. It is not important to have a beautiful voice.

Where Are the Dances Held?

The dances can be held in weekly or monthly gatherings, in homes, on camps, during weddings, or for any other kind of celebration.

Dances of Universal Peace are held in around 22 countries including the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand, France, Germany, Russia and former USSR states.

For more information, see:

1Samuel Lewis studied with Hazrat Inayat Khan, the founder of the Sufi Order of the West and dancing is used in the training of Sufi disciples. There is a tradition of whirling by Turkish Sufis.

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