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The Dances of Universal Peace (DUP) are meditative, spiritual practices using the mantras of all world religions to promote peace.[1] The DUP dances, of North American Sufic origin, combine chants from world faiths with dancing, whirling, and a variety of movement with singing.[2]


The Dances

Conducted in the company of a number of other dancers in a circle,[3][4] the participatory dances are facilitated by a dance leader who plays a percussive or stringed instrument, usually guitar or drum as dance accompaniment. Each dance has a chant which is sung as the dance is performed.[4] The chants are often sacred phrases put to traditional or contemporary melodies, and include a wide range of languages including Arabic, Aramaic, English, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Persian, and Sanskrit.[3] The promoters of the dances claim that these forms embody the understanding that the truth at the heart of all religions is the same truth, and that peace can be promoted through an experience of this unity.[5]

The DUP emphasis is on participation regardless of ability, and dances are almost never performed before an audience. Dancers of all levels of ability dance together, and each dance is usually taught afresh at each gathering. The practice of the dance is purported to develop the participants' spiritual awareness, awareness of their own body, and awareness of the presence of others. Dances are choreographed with movements, steps, and gestures that encourage the dancer to explore the deeper mystical meaning of the dance.[6]


The Dances of Universal Peace were first formulated in the late 1960s by Samuel L. Lewis (SAM = Sufi Ahmed Murad Chisti, 1896-1971) and were then conducted in California[7]. The original dances were strongly influenced by Samuel Lewis' spiritual relationships with Ruth St. Denis, a modern dance pioneer, and Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Sufi master. The influence on the dances of Sufi practices such as Sema and The Whirling Dervishes are apparent, although Samuel Lewis was also a Rinzai Zen master and drew on the teachings of the major religious and spiritual traditions, including native.[3]

Dances were originally performed at camps and meetings with a distinctly new age and alternative feel but have increasingly come to be offered in diverse places of worship, schools, colleges, prisons, hospices, residential homes for those with special needs, and holistic health centers.[8] The Dances have since developed into a global movement[4]. The Network for the Dances of Universal Peace has members in 28 countries.[9]


The Catholic Church has criticized its priests for doctrinal diversity, including participating in and promoting the Dances of Universal Peace.[10] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) dismissed Matthew Fox from the Dominican Order for his activities which include promotion of the Dances of Universal Peace. Since that time Fox went on to become a vocal critic of Ratzinger and his policies.[11]


  1. ^ Segner, Dance for Peace at the UUCC, eNews Park Forest, 9 September 2008.
  2. ^ Unitarian Universalist Association, Religious Education Curricula, The Cultural Connection.
  3. ^ a b c Cornell
  4. ^ a b c Westerlund
  5. ^ Stoehr, How to reclaim the historic role of art in expressing spirituality, Charleston City Paper, August 13, 2008.
  6. ^ Potter
  7. ^ Mijares
  8. ^ The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) uses the DUP songbook, Important Resources, in its religious curricula.
  9. ^ International Network for the Dances of Universal Peace, About the Dances
  10. ^ Jane Gross, Discipline and Silence for a 'New Age' Priest, The New York Times, Friday, October 21, 1988. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  11. ^ Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox, 22 Questions for Cardinal Ratzinger and the Silver Lining in the Election of this first Grand Inquisitor as Pope, 2005.

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