A Short History of the Sacred Dance Guild
By Toni’ Intravaia, Editor,
Sacred Dance Guild Journal
As Editor of the Sacred Dance Guild Journal, and a
member since 1958, but not one of the founding father/mothers,
I write. Also as author of And We Have Danced, Volume
II, I have read and reread about the history of the
Sacred Dance Guild. In addition for the 40th anniversary
I presented "A Time to Remember."
The Sacred Dance Guild’s beginning in 1958 was
the result of the gathering of many to a meeting of
the Eastern Regional Sacred Dance Association which
had its beginning in 1956. There was a growing need
for a place, a club, a guild to exchange and meet and
work and share liturgical danced prayer through workshops
1958-1968 "Where do we Start?" The early years
were devoted to workshops. At that time Mary Jane Wolbers
(one of the founders) suggested the workshops should
teach basics of creative movement so dance choirs could
learn not only to create but to solve their own choreographic
problems. Margaret Taylor Doane (another founder) published
Art of the Rhythmic Choir.
1968-1978 "Dance for the Congregation" These
years heralded technique, not only modern but African,
East Indian, Yeminite, Sufi, Spirituals, Jazz, Ballet,
Doug Adams enters with ideas on Congregational dance
and reinacting historical worship. Carla DeSola danced
the Mass, Doug danced Christmas Carols; the Omega Dance
Company came of age.
1978-1988 "Expanding our Sacred Dance Horizons"
I noted many unusual additions during this time: those
who discussed, danced and prayed: Barbara Lyon, wholeness;
Eileen Lunch, healing; Scerbo, meditation therapy; Starfire,
holistic awareness; Tinka Tarver, moving toward wholeness;
Letitia Williams, Sylvia Bryant and Arthur Hall, black
sacred dance. There was prayer in hasidic Mode, prayer
using T’ai Chi Ch’uan, Jewish Mysticism,
inspiration from the Orient and clowning the liturgy
Other companies and artists entered: "Body &
Soul Dance Company," Carla DeSola, Cynthia Winston-Henry;
Phil Porter, Judith Rock, Connie Fisher, Susan Cole,
Martha Ann Kirk, Barrie Gibby, Kathryn Mihelick, Mary
Johnson, Joan Sparrow. Carolyn Reed wrote And We Have
Danced, Volume I.
1988-1998 "Dancing the Journeys of Our Lives"
We have liturgical dance courses in colleges and seminaries;
we have Sacred Dance Endowment funds at the Sacred Dance
Guild, at Pacific School of Religion, and elsewhere.
We have sacred dance oriented companies; degrees in
sacred dance; we have books, we have videos, we have
computers, we have the Journal.
1998-this moment "Continuance" Not only do
we continue all the above, but since you are reading
this – We have the website!
Massachusetts Unitarian minister Robert Storer, along with Mary Jane Wolbers, Margaret Taylor Doane and other members of the Eastern Regional Sacred Dance Association changed their name to the Sacred Dance Guild in 1958 in order to geographically open up their membership. The first Institute (now called festivals) was held in June at Jacob's Pillow in Massachusetts, and led by Ted Shawn. The first president was Jane Renz of Pennsylvania.
The Eastern Regional Sacred Dance Association was formed in 1956 primarily by directors of sacred dance choirs to share and learn dances suitable for worship. They began a newsletter in 1957 with stick figure choreography, and suggestions for robing, lighting, texts and music. Bibliographical and teaching techniques were also included.
The Sacred Dance Guild Archives are located at the University of New Hampshire Diamond Library. Click on www.library.unh.edu/special/index.php/sacred-dance-guild to view our archive's listings. Contact the SDG President concerning donations. firstname.lastname@example.org