The beat of a drum keeps time for the participants of the Kalispell chapter of Dances of Universal Peace as they danced in a circle, singing along to songs in various languages, taken from various religious traditions.
Once a month, between 10 and 20 dancers commune at the Shining Mountains Center for Spiritual Living to be led in song, dance, poetry and chants.
The practice draws its origin from the 1960s when Samuel L. Lewis began to develop the dances and movements as a way to celebrate and spread the influence he took from his study of different religious traditions. It has attracted followers across the globe.
The rituals combine and intermingle practices and traditions from Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam as well as Aramaic, Native American, Native Middle Eastern, Celtic and Native African.
The Kalispell “circle” began with leader Carla Hannaford, 75, when she moved from Hawaii to the Flathead just over two years ago.
“It’s based on the Sufi ideas of there’s only oneness,” Hannaford said. “There’s nothing but oneness and we’re all one and we need to honor everyone and everything.”
During Wednesday evening’s gathering, Hannaford led the group of 13 in a song and dance, calling on the Pagan goddess of the solstice, followed by a partner dance encouraging participants to connect through hand-holding and eye contact while sustaining their movement in the circle.
“We are singing a new world into existence,” the group sang, following the lyrics of a song titled “We Are.”
“For me, it’s a spiritual practice when I dance and when I sing,” Hannaford said. “We’re aligning ourselves to be really coherent, but also to feel the vibrations and remember.”
Hannaford said she hopes participants leave feeling rejuvenated with a sense of joy, inspiration and connection.
For more information about the Dances of Universal Peace, contact Hannaford at 257-2949.
Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.