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Introducing the Dances of Universal Peace
at the 12th Subud World Congress in Innsbruck / Austria
with 2650 participants from 63 countries
by Ralph Nimmann,   R a i n b o w   Dance Cambridge   (Sept. '05 - updated Sept. '06)


Every four years the international sister- and brotherhood of Subud meets to celebrate and to organise themselves - this year from 21st July to 4th August 2005 in the Congress Centre Innsbruck, Austria.
Being a Subud member, I managed to get the DUP into the programme as part of the official welcome activities. Of course I was excited and had visions to dance with hundreds of people in 7 concentric circles (the Subud logo consists of 7 circles with 7 segments).

I had prepared postcard size leaflets with the following minimalistic information:

Dances of Universal Peace - Danzas de Paz Universal -
Tänze des Universellen Friedens - танцы всеобщего мира

Singing sacred phrases inspired by spiritual traditions
with devotional movements in a circle.
A joyful and uplifting experience,
in 28 countries - find out more at:

Organisational challenges

Five times I managed to offer the Dances of Universal Peace during the two congress weeks, printed in the programme, listed in the updated daily copy sheets and displayed on the congress centre monitors. I spread some hundred of the info flyers. I realised the peace dances were in competition with 450 other events during the congress at six venues in the city.

The first day everyone was still arriving and hugging each other - only a dozen people came to dance. On the second day Ibu Rhayu, the respected daughter of the Subud founder Bapak, held a welcome ceremony clashing with the peace dances, which also had been re-scheduled one hour earlier at 1pm (when everyone was queuing up for lunch) - so only 15 people came to dance for one hour. The third session was clashing with "testing" sessions (asking God for guidance) recommended for all Subud members - about 20 people came dancing. The fourth dance session was in a school, half a mile from the Congress Centre; it turned out to be the hottest day of year with about 35 Celsius - about 7 came. For the last dance session only 4 came, because the organisers printed "8am" instead of "8pm" in the programme.

My inner struggle

Of course I always think, that part of 'the blame' is in me, that low numbers are a kind of feedback for my inner state. I often think I should radiate love, harmony and beauty so strongly, that participants would be attracted 'magnetically' in great numbers. Having offered peace dances in "the emotional desert" of Cambridge, England, for the last 8 years, has polished quite a few sharp edges of my ego - I got used to dancing with frustrating low numbers. Surrendering and accepting seems to be not so difficult any more.
In Subud we say: "Everything is about something else." So who knows, what my dance offer in Austria was good for?
Anyway - as soon as we began dancing, my mental struggle disappeared - it is as if an invisible bubble of protection surrounds us dancers, keeping all the worries of the world out.

    Ralph, waiting for the masses to come to dance
in a HUGE hall at Innsbruck Congress Centre, Austria
                       22nd July 2005
Ralph, waiting for the masses to come to dance in a HUGE hall at Innsbruck Congress Centre, Austria, 22nd July 2005

The positive side

Despite all these obstacles: the dancers were VERY enthusiastic and many asked for peace dance contacts in their countries. On the second dance day the 'Congress TV' videoed a dance I made to the chant: "We are opening up in sweet surrender to the infinite love-light of the One". It is included it in the official congress film documentation. The best session was on day 3: the dancers were as excited as puppies are before going out for a walk - they really wanted to dance! During a zikr dance I wondered, if it was OK to lead a Sufi practice at this Subud Congress, where the only official spiritual practice is the latihan. The participants loved it - and nobody complained.

Apart from having spread some hundred of the above info flyers, I had the "We Circle Around" magazine with me and could give direct contacts in many countries. Many more people who did not make it to the peace dances were interested and apologised for not coming. It was impossible for congress participants not to notice the DUP, and certainly this has been a very good advertising of our dances.

Some interesting observations: the number of people actively involved in creative arts seemed to be extremely high. A significant number of the Subud members live in a different country than their birthplace, which gives them a bit of global and tolerant perspective.

I expect, that several Subud members will contact and join their local peace dance groups after the congress.

Inspiration for the Dances of Universal Peace movement

After this (my first) world congress, I realised, how wonderful it was to meet Subud sisters & brothers from other countries - and how few of the many beautiful peace dancers from all over the world I actually know and have met; the highlight of my year is the international "Sacred Arts Camp" in England (www.sacred-arts-camp.org.uk), but still - most folks there come from England.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to organise a really big international DUP event, where the global peace dance family can sing, dance and pray together and we get to know each other a bit better across national boundaries?

Some words about Subud

Subud is an international spiritual sister- and brotherhood beyond religious categories: a spiritual practice, not a religion. It is an individual experience of the universal life force / the Holy Spirit / God, which arises from within. 'Subud' is a contraction of the Sanskrit-derived words Susila (The behaviour and character of a person following the will of Almighty God), Budhi (The essence of the Divine Power within man) and Dharma (Complete submission, trust and sincerity towards Almighty God).

The spiritual practice in Subud is called "Latihan", which means 'spiritual exercise / training' in the Indonesian language. We empty our minds and surrender to receive the spirit of God, which often moves the body in an uncontrolled way; we do not do anything, but allow everything to happen. Usually also sounds arise from within.

The founder of Subud, Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, also called 'Bapak' (which means 'respected father' in Indonesian), came from Java. He unexpectedly received a series of spiritual experiences, "the contact" in 1924. Later he was able to pass his receiving on to anyone who asked for it.

Subud has democratic structures on local, regional, national and international levels. The International Subud Council moves its country every four years to avoid any attachment with power, a nation or a culture. Subud has spread to about 80 countries, including most European countries. See www.subud.org for more information.

from 21 - 30 August 2007 Subud Britain will celebrate "50 years Subud in the West" in England with over 2000 expected participants (www.thankyou2007.com). Of course I will offer peace dances again!

About the author

Ralph comes from Berlin and is living in Cambridge, England. He is a certified teacher of the Dances of Universal Peace, a Quaker and a Subud member, currently also chair of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Group. Ralph also leads a Taizé harmony singing and a chanting group. He is involved in several community groups and has an Internet radio show Ralph's Positive Hour.
Here is a short article: Subud - a spiritual path involving sound and movement
More on Ralph's web site 'Rainbow Network Cambridge' www.rainbow.cambridge.org.uk

ways to contact Ralph Nimmann - e-mail: rainbowralph[AT]gmail.com

[This article was first published in the EUROPEAN JOURNAL for the Dances of Universal Peace, Issue 31, Dec. 2005]

More Dances of Universal Peace related articles by Ralph

Dances of      protected DUP Logo: circle of hearts      Universal Peace

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