International Dance Council


About the Term “Spirituality”

It is beyond the scope of this Website to examine in depth which is the best way to define a notion with many connotations which – in addition – vary under time.

Why have we used “Dance and Spirituality “ instead of “ Sacred Dance ” or “Dance and Worship” or whatever ?

The choice was just arbitrary. Notions are subtle and differences in terminology are slippery, but as a matter of reflection not only is it open, but it represents a challenging subject for the contributors of the website! 

What seems important to us is to link dance with all forms of spiritual quests, either in the frame of a particular worship or ritual, or in each artists’ unique feeling is attempting to classify spiritual dances.

There are various ways to classify sacred dances. They are based on some criteria the way the dance is held and particularly on the result which is expected. It is up to the reader to place a dance under one or more categories.


Two examples : 

Ludivine of Aether ASBL Association 
Proposes a very comprehensive classification in four types :
1 / devotional dances, to pay homage to Nature or to the deities.
2 / ecstatic dances, to unite with the Divine through meditation or by creating  a state of trance.
They may be collective or personal
3 / magic dances, to obtain a concrete magic result: 
triggering the rain, attracting luck, ensuring a victory, obtaining a cure, etc.


4 / pedagogical dances, to transmit a spiritual teaching
See Ludivine’s Article
The theologian W. O. E. Oesterley (Bibliography)  
proposed in 1923 that sacred dance had several purposes, the most important being to honour supernatural powers;
the other purposes were to “show off” before the powers;
– To unite the dancer with a supernatural power, as in the dances for the Greek goddesses Demeter and Persephone; 
– Making the body suitable as a temporary dwelling-place for the deity, by dancing ecstatically to unconsciousness;
– Making crops grow, or helping or encouraging the deity to make them grow, as withAriadne’s Dance as described in the Iliad;
– consecrating a victim for sacrifice (as with the Israelitescircling the altar, or the Sarawak Kayans circling a sacrificial pig);
– paying homage to the deity present for an initiation ceremony;
– helping warriors to victory in battle, and appeasing the spirits of the enemy killed inbattle;
– averting the dangers associated with marriage, at a wedding ceremony;


– at a funeral or mourning ceremony, purposes such as driving away the malevolent ghost of the dead person, or preventing the ghost from leaving the grave, or frightening off any evil spirits attracted by the corpse, or temporarily and invisibly bringing the dead person back to join in the dance, or simply honouring the dead person.

Modern times

George Gurdjieff, the mystic and spiritual teacher collected or authored a series of sacred dances, known as Gurdjieff movements.

The Dances of Universal Peace, created in the 1960s by North American Sufis, use dancing, Sufi whirling, and singing of sacred phrases from different religions

From 1976, Bernhard Wosien the ballet master and choreographer introduced circle dance at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. He used  both traditional dances and his own choreography to develop “group awareness”. Wosien’s approach was taken up by the dance teacher Anna Barton, and this style of sacred dance spread around the world].

Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis with Ted Shawn, and Martha Graham developed contemporary dance early in the 20th century, often using elements of sacred dance and fusing them with other genres.


Suggested Readings :

Gurdjieff Movements Website

Dances of Universal Peace

Bernhard Wosien

Top left Image : A verse on dance                                                                         Credit : Muses From A Mystic

Bottom middle Image : Gurdjieff Sacred Dance                                                      Credit : 1988,2002 Institut Gurdjieff Paris

Top right Image : we came whirling out of nothingness rumi                                  Credit : Pinterest

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