Dances for Universal Peace was recently held in Grand Junction |

Dances for Universal Peace was recently held in Grand Junction

Sharon Sullivan
Bernie Heideman leads Dances of Universal Peace at Yoga West Collective in Grand Junction on Jan. 11.
Sharon Sullivan/ | Free Press

Bernie Heideman stood in the middle of a circle, strumming a guitar to simple songs of peace while his wife Adrianna sat on a small rug with a drum and a notebook of poetry beside her. Occasionally, between songs, she’d read a poem.

More than a dozen people surrounded them, moving in steps aligned to the lyrics, words that in essence, praised God.

“Thank you for the gifts of this day, and every day; Creator, open our hearts to peace and healing between all people,” chanted the dancers during the opening song, as they moved in rhythm.

The Heidemans were leading Dances of Universal Peace at the Yoga West Collective, 1025 Main St., on Jan. 11. The Heidemans have led dances in Hotchkiss, where they live, and in Grand Junction for more than 20 years.

Dances of Universal Peace are circle dances using simple folk-dance movements, where partners change throughout the dances.

The sacred songs come from various traditions and may be sung in English, Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Russian or other languages.

Julia Stinson, 17, of Delta, has made the trip to Grand Junction since she was a toddler coming to the dances with her mother and three siblings, she said. Stinson also attends regular dances in Hotchkiss.

“It’s one of the few places I go to where it’s totally OK to be who I am,” she said.

Susan Oviatt, who was at the Grand Junction dance with her 15-year-old daughter Nora, attended peace dances before Heideman started leading them.

“I saw a poster in Sundrop (a former natural foods grocery in Grand Junction) for a dance in Glenwood,” Oviatt said. “I enjoyed it so much. The same dance leader (from Boulder) was doing one in Hotchkiss the next night. I went to that one, too.”

Heideman learned to lead the peace dances from the Boulder dance leader, Timothy Dobson, after being introduced to folk dancing at a prior workshop.

Like a caller at a contra dance, Heideman first demonstrates the simple dance steps and teaches the lyrics before each dance.

Heideman also leads dances in Hotchkiss, and at dance retreats outside of Moab, Utah, in Crestone, Colo., and in Mexico.

The Oviatts are planning to attend his dance camp in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, Feb. 3-10. It’s the twelfth dance camp held in the fishing village, 20 miles south of Cancun, where attendees dance on the beach underneath a canopy.

Occasional dance retreats are also held on the Heidemans’ Hotchkiss farm, where they grow apples and used to make Big B’s apple juice and cider have been nicknamed “Bernstock.” (He sold the juice business a few years ago; Big B’s is still sold at local stores.)

Grand Junction resident Rick Anderson said he’s been going to local dances since 1996.

“The dances create a sacred space,” Anderson said. “Plus, I like to sing. I like the peace and atmosphere created.”

Jeannie and Rick MacArthur recently moved to Grand Junction from Minnesota. The dance at Yoga West was their first peace dance. They learned about it in their Koinonia church bulletin, they said.

“It’s very impressive, deeply meditative,” Rick MacArthur said. “It’s very meaningful.”

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