Ithaca Dances for Universal Peace Credit: Photo provided

This is a Community Connections column written by Marjorie Z. Olds for The Ithaca Voice.

In the early 1980’s Ginny Miller, her husband and infant son, moved from Canada to Valois, New York from the yoga ashram where they had lived. After moving to Ithaca many of us knew or worked with Ginny in NYS’s first Office of the Law Guardian, in the Office of Prisoners’ Legal Services. Over time, those close to her came to learn a little about Ginny’s spiritual practices, teaching yoga and leading the Dances of Universal Peace. 

For 45 years, the Ithaca Dances of Universal Peace, a chapter of DUP North America and International, have been hosting uplifting dance events in Ithaca.

“We sing, dance, and pray together for peace within ourselves and the world,” Miller said. “People are drawn to the Dances, often searching for a deeper connection to others, with a wide embrace of all faith traditions. And we love to sing and dance together to music from all around the world, which fosters our spiritual lives…We note the similarities between the basic precepts of all religions and their music and prayers too […] Sacred phrases—Salaam, Shalom, Shanti, Shlama, Soham—for peace, for example.”

Originally sponsored locally by the Ithaca Sufi Center, for years the Dances have been held on the first Saturday night of every month. At first, they danced above Miller’s (now the CMSA), then at Cornell’s One World Room, then at the Foundation of Light. Most recently, the DUP are pleased to have a home in the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca on Buffalo and Aurora Streets in downtown Ithaca.

For 29 years the DUP’s Summer Retreat was the highlight of the year for the Dancers—until COVID. For the last three years, the retreats have been virtual, led by Dances leaders with Ithaca musicians playing (guitar, drums, accordion, harmonium, violin, and flute) for DUP groups gathered all over this region and beyond.

This year, the Dances of Universal Peace Ithaca are thrilled to invite everyone to the 30th Anniversary Reunion Retreat and Camp at the 900-acre Sky Lake Retreat Center (owned by the United Methodist Church, a most gracious and welcoming host) in Windsor, N.Y., just south of Binghamton.

“This is a spectacular year-round center with welcoming staff, and well-maintained facilities including cabins, campgrounds and lodge rooms,” Miller said.

Although Ginny has loved the mysticism and the rituals of Catholicism all her life, she feels blessed also by the mysticism and rituals of the DUP.

“Many of us believe in the universality of spirituality; that there is not one particular path to Truth or Unity,” she said. “As strife in the world increases, we may find solace and hope in spiritual practices that are open to people of all walks of life, of all faiths and beliefs.”

For those who would like to learn more, observe, or experience the fun and beauty of the Dances of Universal Peace, Ginny, on behalf of the DUP extends a special welcome on June 3, during the upcoming Ithaca Festival:

Please join us for a special, hour-long session of the Dances of Universal Peace on Ithaca Festival weekend! We’ll be dancing on Saturday, June 3rd just two blocks from the Ithaca Commons at the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca, on the corner of Buffalo and Aurora Streets. Live meditation music from 7-7:15 p.m., Dances from 7:15-8:15 p.m. Include the Dances in your Festival-going activities! Have you always wanted to discover what the Dances of Universal Peace are? This introductory, “sampler” session is the ideal time to find out. No experience necessary. $5 donation requested but not required.