Ed note: Dances of Universal Peace take place on the second Saturday of the month at the SLO library (995 Palm St.). For more information, call 438-3662.
NEW TIMES What are dances of universal peace?
NELSON They are a form of worship, in a way. It’s a spiritual practice that draws on all of the world’s religious traditions, and we do participatory dancing and singing together to connect. So it’s like folk dancing, except with a completely different purpose. It is fun, but the purpose of it is more like meditation; the purpose is to tune your mind and heart and body and soul together with a whole group of people.
NEW TIMES Are the dances different each time?
NELSON They have a particular form. They’re all different. There are hundreds of different dances that we do that come from all over the world. They’re pretty easy; it’s not like you have to have dance experience to do it. They have different songs and different flavors. It’s not all free form; it has a form that’s choreographed—with circles, turning, and some dances are with partners.
NEW TIMES What are some cultures that inspire this event?
NELSON We do Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Native American, Zulu, Shinto from Japan. If people aren’t familiar with this, they might picture an Indian Kirtan, but it’snot just Hindu, we do others, too—whatever inspires the person creating the dance.
NEW TIMES What’s your favorite mainstream pop song of the moment?
NELSON Oh no! I don’t know any. Does it have to be written in the last 10 years? I like that song by Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah.” A lot of people are covering it recently, so it’s kind of mainstream.