A Brief Dance History
From the beginning of time, sacred movement, song and story have brought people together - at times of seasonal ceremony and celebration, as part of everyday life and life passages, in daily renewal and meditation, etc. The Dances of Universal Peace are part of this timeless tradition of Sacred Dance.

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The Dances were brought together in the late 1960's by Samuel L. Lewis also known as Murshid Sam (1896-1971), a Sufi Murshid (teacher) and Rinzai Zen Master, who also studied deeply in the mystical traditions of Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity. From his rich life experiences, Lewis in his early 70's began to envision and create the Dances as a dynamic method to promote "Peace through the Arts". From the early days and his original body of about 50 dances, the collection has grown since his passing to more than 500 dances which celebrate the sacred heart of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Aramaic, Native American, Native African, Celtic, Goddess, Pagan and Universalist traditions. In this creation, Lewis was deeply influenced by his contact and spiritual apprenticeship with two people: Hazrat Inayat Khan, who first brought the message of universal Sufism to the West in 1910, and Ruth St. Denis, a feminist pioneer in the modern dance movement in America and Europe.

Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927) brought the Sufi Message of Love, Harmony and Beauty to Europe and the U.S. from India in the years 1910 – 1926 and his teachings have blossomed in a number of Western Sufi lineages. He was born into a family of musicians and through the guidance of the spiritual teachers of India with whom he was associated, he became the musician of the soul, for his work was mostly performed in the higher spheres, tuning people to their real pitch. Hazrat Inayat Khan called for the awakening of the individual as the awakening of the consciousness of humanity to the divinity in every person, our inheritance of the divine perfection. He offered beautifully spoken teachings on the unity of religious ideals and the one source of all human religious expression.  These teachings in particular inspire the Dances of Universal Peace.

”Where does music come from? Where does the dance come from? It all comes from that natural and spiritual life that is within ...... music touches our innermost being and in that way produces new life, a life that gives exaltation to the whole being, raising it to that perfection in which lies the fulfillment of human life.“  

Ruth St. Denis (1878-1968) was a pioneer of contemporary dance in America. She was a sensation in her early years performing individual dances like Radha and Incense. Ruth St. Denis entered the inner realization of the figures of divinity that she chose to perform - like Holy Mother Mary, Kwan Yin, the Buddha and others and from that feeling danced a vision of perfection. By choosing figures from many different cultures, Ruth St. Denis presented a wordless show of unity before thousands of audiences all over the world throughout her life. Ruth St. Denis wrote of her vision of a future dance for life and peace:

"The dance of the future will no longer be concerned with meaningless dexterities of the body.... Remembering that man is indeed the microcosm, the universe in miniature, the Divine Dance of the future should be able to convey with its slightest gestures some significance of the universe.... As we rise higher in the understanding of ourselves, the national and racial dissonances will be forgotten in the universal rhythms of Truth and Love. We shall sense our unity with all peoples who are moving to that exalted rhythm.

Since the late 1960's, the Dances have spread throughout the world, touching more than a half million people in North and South America, eastern and Western Europe, the former Soviet Union, India, the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan, Australia, and New Zealand. Further networking and citizen diplomacy through the Dances have occurred in South Africa, Bosnia and the Middle East. New grassroots Dance circles are continually springing up around the globe, with over two hundred dance circles meeting weekly or monthly in the United States alone.

In Seattle, There are Dances every Wednesday, 7:30-9:30pm at the Keystone Church (5019 Keystone Place North, Seattle) and monthly on the Eastside, Whidbey Island, and Mt Vernon as well as invitational venues such as church services, peace days and cultural events. There are also many opportunities to attended wonderful inspiring dance camps here and abroad where participants experience the vision of Murshid Sam to “Eat, Dance and Pray Together” in community. Click here to see full calendar

The Dances of Universal Peace have evolved and expanded in practical application to meet the deep felt needs today for rediscovering reverence, creativity, and a body-based connection to the natural world. Teachers share the Dances in schools, therapy groups, prisons, hospice houses, drug rehabilitation centers, homes for the developmentally disabled, retirement villages, holistic health centers, and ecumenical worship celebrations.
The International Network for the Dances of Universal Peace, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1982 to further the work begun by Samuel L. Lewis with the Dances of Universal Peace and to help make the Dances available to all people. Based in Seattle, it is the coordinating hub that links the many worldwide Dance circles. www.dancesofuniversalpeace.org


NOTE: Some of our Dancers are highly sensitive to fragrances (soaps, natural essences,
perfumes, colognes, hair spray). Please do not wear these to Dance events if possible