Dances of Universal Peace

The Dances of Universal Peace are simple, meditative, joyous multicultural circle dances that use sacred phrases and chants from many traditions of the world.  The Dances are participatory with simple movements and melodies, taught in a welcoming atmosphere.No experience is necessary. Experienced dancers and newcomers form the circle together.

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There are multiple opportunities to experience the Dances of Universal Peace.  Each month at the Sufi Order of Rochester Eat, Dance and Pray event, we Dance together.  See the Calendar for the exact date or contact Wadud for more information.  Dances are held in Wolcott at the Wolcott Library periodically.  See the Calendar for the exact date.

About the Dances…

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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As in these timeless mystic traditions, the Dances use simple music, lyrics, and movements to touch the spiritual essence within ourselves and others. No musical or dance experience of any kind is required and everyone is welcomed to join in. Participation, not presentation, is the focus.  Participants join hands forming a circle with the Dance leader and other musicians. Throughout the evening, the leader teaches the group the words, melody, and movements for the next Dance and often provides some background history about that particular Dance.

The Dances are an experience that all the world should be fortunate enough to enjoy. Hopefully as the Dances of Universal Peace continue to spread, the world will.

Dances of Universal Peace are an important part of our monthly Eat, Dance and Pray event, usually held on the 4th Saturday of the month, beginning with a potluck supper, followed by the Universal Worship and Dances. It was the inspiration of Murshid Samuel Lewis, the originator of the Dances, that peace will come when we eat, dance and pray together.  All are welcome.  Please check the calendar for exact dates.  Dances are also meeting on an occasional basis at the Center.  Check the Calendar for schedule.

There is another Dance meeting in Wolcott, NY, scheduled on an occasional basis.  Please check the calendar for more information.

We are fortunate to have a Dance Mentor here in Rochester, Wadud Cretella, who is approved to train Dance Leaders.  Please contact Wadud for more information.

History of the Dances of Universal Peace

The Dances of Universal Peace were brought together in the late 1960’s by Samuel L. Lewis (1896-1971), a Sufi Murshid (teacher) and Rinzai Zen Master, who also studied deeply in the mystical traditions of Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity. 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.

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 Middle Eastern, Celtic, Native African, and Goddess traditions.

During the past 25 years, the Dances have spread throughout the world, touching more than a half million people in North and South America, Europe, the former Soviet Union, Japan, India, Pakistan, Australia, and New Zealand. Further networking and citizen diplomacy through the Dances are also beginning in South Africa and the Middle East. New grassroots Dance circles are continually springing up around the globe, with anywhere from 40 to 60 meeting weekly or monthly in the United States alone.

The Aramaic Lord’s Prayer

For the past several years, Inayat Jim Leff and Wadud Henry Cretella have presented the experience of the chanting and movements to the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus, on New Year’s Day at the Friends Meeting House, 84 Scio Street in Rochester. 


For more information, please contact Wadud.

The Sufi Order of Rochester Center for Sufi Studies, 494 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607, the Carriage House behind the AAUW mansion (Carriage House is 492).