SDG History

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 and newsletters.

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, Yoga.
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 in dance.

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!


SDG Founders

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 to view our archive's listings. Contact the SDG President concerning donations.

See Also:

SDG History, Founders, Archives

SDG Governance: Governing Boards, Committees, By Laws and Policies




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