Worship in Motion Women Dance at Naperville Church to Celebrate Faiths from around the World

Article excerpt

Byline: Catherine Edman Daily Herald Staff Writer

Sitting in a church pew periodically singing - and rarely making eye contact with others - left something to be desired for Ann Kuhn.

She liked, and still likes, attending Mass. She just needed something a little more interactive.

Perhaps the mother of seven was used to a tad bit more activity in her life. She definitely was open to change.

It was during a church retreat in 1989 that she first saw and took part in the Dances of Universal Peace, where women gathered in a circle to sing and dance prayers based on the major world religions.

"It appealed to me because it included my whole being: my body, mind and spirit. There's movement and interaction with people in the circle," the 72-year-old dance instructor said.

Once a month, she's now teaching those dances to a whole new generation of women at the First Congregational Church in Naperville.

"I love it so much, so I got a mentor to teach me (to be a teacher)," Kuhn said. "It's very hard to learn because you have to memorize the movements, the words, tell people about where the dance is from and teach them about the dance."

But perfection is not the goal of the dancers. It's not like ballet, where precision of movement is everything.

Instead, it's worship in motion, they say.

"Way to use the body in prayer," said Cyndi Gavin of Naperville, who introduced the group to her church. "It combines music, songs and movement in a prayerful way - in community."

The dances themselves first sprung up in the 1960s in San Francisco as the creation of a man named Samuel Lewis, a follow of Sufism, or a mystical arm of Islam. After his death in the 1970s, they changed to honor all the major religions, Kuhn said.

That includes Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and Buddhism. …