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Berks to host Dances of Universal Peace

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Penn State Berks will host Dances of Universal Peace on Saturday, May 16, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. in the Perkins Student Center Multipurpose Room. A form of spiritual meditative dance conducted with a group of dancers and led by a dance leader, who usually plays a guitar or drum, each dance has a chant, which is sung as the dance is performed. 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.

The emphasis is on participation regardless of ability. Participants of all levels dance together and each dance is usually taught at each performance. Dances are choreographed to encourage the dancer to explore the deeper mystical meaning of the chant. The practice of the dance is claimed to develop the participants' spiritual awareness, awareness of their own body and awareness of the presence of others.

The Dances of Universal Peace were first formulated in the late 1960s by Samuel L. Lewis and were first performed in California. The original dances were strongly influenced by Lewis' spiritual contact 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 Lewis was also a Rinzai Zen master and drew on the teachings of the major religious and spiritual traditions, including native traditions.

The Dances have since developed into a global movement. The Network for the Dances of Universal Peace has members in 28 countries and have increasingly come to be offered in schools, colleges, prisons, hospices, residential homes for those with special needs, and holistic health centers.

For more information, contact Dr. Paul Frye, instructor in Speech Communication, at paf11@psu.edu.
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