It was a Sunday abounding in glorious sunshine in the middle of July. I had come over from the Sufi Ruhaniat Summer School in Germany to teach a day of Dances of Universal Peace at City Lit, an adult education centre in London’s Covent Garden. There were more than twenty present and it was quite a mix between older experienced dancers and total newcomers. Among the mix, and neither newcomer nor old, were six dear young people. Some were still at school, others had recently passed beyond school but all were longtime regulars at the dance camps in the UK.
A few weeks earlier I had been asked to coordinate the youth program at Sacred Arts Camp, perhaps in part as a result of having set in motion a youth exchange programme between Sacred Arts and the German Dance Camp in 2010. Building on the exemplary work of Jilani, camp director Rabia this year introduced several inspired innovations to the youth programme, including an opportunity for the young people to sit down with all the invited DUP teachers and ask any questions they wanted to ask, as well as an opportunity to shadow a dance leader of their choice for the whole duration of the camp. Several of the teachers were moved to tears during the various parts of the whole process, including this writer, who was touched more deeply by the work than he could ever have imagined.
Recalling my impecunious student days, shortly after Sacred Arts Camp the inspiration came to offer free tickets to the young people for the upcoming event in Covent Garden. I had been told that young people at the camps don’t actually like to dance that much, so when initially there wasn’t much of a response it seemed understandable. But then out of the blue, and not so long before the date in London, emails started to flow and one by one more and more young people said they wanted to attend.
Apart from the fact that half a dozen young people came on the day, what surprised me most was the depth of their enthusiasm, for most of them had travelled from far and wide to be there, coming as they did from London, Bristol, Oxford, Brighton and even Wales — and all this on a hot sunny weekend where it must have been ever so tempting to spend the day outside!
The day came. As we sang, as we danced and as Gemma played an exquisite violin as a counterpoint to my acoustic guitar, somehow the ineffable mystery was touched, and secret tears were able to flow once again.
– Glen Unmana
Next year Glen will be offering another day of Dances of Universal Peace in Covent Garden, on Sunday 20th July, 2014. Glen would like to offer free tickets to any young person up to age 25 who might like to attend. For bookings please contact Renate Lalloo on 0207 492 2619, Renate.Lalloo@citylit.ac.uk
If you are a dance leader in the UK and are planning some events for 2014, please consider experimenting with offering discounted or free tickets to young people. As you can see from the contributions below, it can make a big difference.
‘I thoroughly enjoyed the day of dances which took place in Convent Garden in July this year. I was lucky enough to go for free and this made the day a lot more accessible as I probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise. The day was relaxed and left me feeling connected in the midst of my busy everyday life. I hadn’t been to a dance day before but would certainly go again. Thank you Glen for your wonderful teaching.’
‘The dance day being offered for free was an offer I couldn’t refuse. It was a great opportunity to see close friends and meet new people. The dance day was from 10.30am-5.30pm and so the dance sessions felt quite deep and intense, yet with long enough breaks to eat and catch up with people. It was great to be dancing as part of a big circle with a guitar and violin in the centre and the sun shining in through the windows. Thanks.’
‘It was a really fantastic opportunity to be able to go to the DUP day in Covent Garden. Dancing with the same group of people for the whole day really strengthened the collective growth, understanding and deepening in the dances. Being with people of a similar age was a great opportunity to discuss our experiences of the dances with those in a similar situation and life point, as well as with people who had been dancing for a very long time and people that were completely new to the dances.’
‘I first came across the dances when I was five and ever since then I have been going to camps in which the dances play a huge part. In the last few years I have been playing the violin for DUP which I really enjoy and have also begun to consider leading dances myself.
I think it would be wonderful if more young people had access to DUP for free as it has dramatically changed my life (for the better) and I think that other people should be given the same opportunity. If everyone in the world participated in DUP, the world would be more at peace and this can only come about if it is made more widely available.
I have also felt in my life that DUP should be taught in primary schools as it would encourage children to be more accepting of other people. I feel they would be less likely to hold grudges or stereotypes and would be more likely to develop into people who care about others and the environment.
Whatever age you are, the dances will open you up to a new and positive way of thinking. They encourage you to simply be who you are and accept others are your equals. In DUP, everyone is working towards the same thing – uniting all people – and having a powerful, deep experience with other people allows connections to form amongst friends and strangers alike.
DUP allows you to get in touch with your inner self and I feel that it’s incredibly important that we don’t lose sight of who we are. The dances unite people of all backgrounds, countries and religions and are already a huge step towards making the world a better place.’