On September 21st, at midnight Greenwich Mean Time, groups all over the world will participate in the annual Earthdance Global Peace Party. The largest synchronized event of its kind, the party has been held in 600 locations in 80 countries since its inception in 1997.
What does it all have to do with ISKCON?
Well, ISKCON devotees will be organizing and catering the Houston, Texas event, which will be held at the 12-acre urban park Discovery Green in downtown Houston and is expected to draw over 500 people.
It all came about back in 2009, when SunShine Samadhi Love, the founder of aesthetic dance group Dance Evolution Houston, wanted to participate in Earthdance. While looking for a group to help her organize a Houston event, she noticed that the Hare Krishnas loved to dance.
So she approached them and spoke to ISKCON Houston director of outreach Gurubhakti Dasi. Thinking that this would be a good opportunity to reach out more to the wider community, as well as to share kirtan and prasadam, Gurubhakti agreed.
ISKCON partnered with Dance Evolution to produce the event in 2009, but since then has taken the lead in organizing Earthdance Houston. Every year until now, the event has taken place at the Gauranga Hall in ISKCON Houston.
Dancing in a circle in ISKCON Houston’s Gauranga Hall
Around 300 people have attended every year, with a predominantly New Age demographic. As well as including the global Prayer for Peace, the events have been a chance for devotees to showcase their tradition with kirtan, prasadam and dramas by Sunday School children. The events also benefit ISKCON’s Food for Life charity, which makes 300 vegan vegetarian lunches every week that are delivered by Meals on Wheels to underprivileged preschool children.
This year, in an effort to increase attendance to Earthdance Houston, ISKCON will be moving it out of the temple to Discovery Green, a very visible public park downtown that advertises all its events on its website. Devotees expect a lot of people – at least 500 – to either learn about Earthdance beforehand through Discovery Green’s advertising, or to simply wander in for the free event on the day.
The event will be held from 4pm to 8pm on September 21st from an outdoor stage. MC Raghunath Das (Ray Cappo), a yoga teacher and former lead singer of the band Shelter, will welcome everyone, then introduce the different communities supporting the event.
Next, groups from different cultures will dance to a twenty-minute track that includes music from all of their traditions, such as African American, Spanish, American and Indian.
People become a blur during the ‘spiral dance’
“We’re also going to approach the local Unity Church, to see if their pastor can come and do a 15-minute meditation,” Gurubhakti says.
There will also be a ten to fifteen minute session in which each person will meet another, make eye contact, and shake hands, leading into the Prayer for Peace at 6pm.
At this time, everyone will hold hands and say the Prayer for Peace that is recited at every Earthdance event around the world: “We are one global family. All colors, all races. One world united. We dance for peace and the healing of our planet Earth. Peace for all nations. Peace for our communities. And peace within ourselves. As we join together across the world, let us connect heart to heart. Through our diversity, we recognize unity. Through our compassion, we recognize peace. Our love is the power to transform our world. Let us send it out now.”
After the prayer, everyone will participate in the “spiral dance,” in which they’ll hold hands and dance in a rotating circle, making contact with each person. There will then be a drum circle, and finally one hour of dancing and chanting the Holy Name with Raghunath and Jiv Jago, a local youth kirtan group.
Throughout the event, delicious prasadam catered by ISKCON Houston will be served.
Gurubhakti Dasi presents SunShine Samadhi with a certificate
“We’ll also have henna, ‘try on a sari,’ and our books, so that people can get a feel for what we do,” says Gurubhakti.
As most of the attendees to Earthdance are spiritual seekers, some become regular visitors to ISKCON Houston every year.
“Once they set foot on the property, then the magic happens,” Gurubhakti says. “They feel the spiritual atmosphere, take prasadam, and associate with devotees. So our goal is to just get the person to set foot on the property. Then everything else happens.”
Organizing Earthdance every year also brings ISKCON publicity and ingratiates it with the wider Houston community.
“We want to make ourselves visible,” says Gurubhakti. “Houston is a very big city, and in the beginning, when the city was looking for something about Indian culture, they would approach an Indian organization or a dance group and ask them. One of our goals is that we should be that organization they approach. And by doing these events, and making ourselves visible and contributing, we feel it’s a win-win.”
Gurubhakti encourages other ISKCON temples to participate in Earthdance too. As much of the information and publicity material is already taken care of by Earthdance, there isn’t a lot of manpower or funds required. It is simply a great way to share kirtan and connect to your community.
To register for Earthdance visit here: http://www.earthdance.org/open-now-earthdance-2013-registration/
Visit the Earthdance Houston Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/EarthDanceHouston
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