The Dances were originally created in America over 40 years ago by Samuel Lewis (1896 - 1971) and were first danced in the late 1960's. Jewish by birth, he became both a Sufi teacher and a Rinzai Zen Master as well as studying in depth the traditions of Christianity and Hinduism. His Sufi teacher (from whom he drew his main inspiration for the Dances) was Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882 - 1927), who was the first to bring to the West the message of universal Sufism - that the truth at the heart of all religions is the same truth. Lewis was further inspired by the American contemporary dance pioneer, poet and mystic, Ruth St. Denis (1880 - 1968), and it was these two sources of inspiration, which combined to lead him to his vision of a dance form embodying this 'one truth' and allowing people their own experience of it.
In 1982, Neil Douglas-Klotz set up a centre to further the work begun by Samuel Lewis and to help make the Dances accessible to all. The 'International Network for the Dances of Universal Peace' is a registered, non-profit making organisation, based in the U.S.A., which has members worldwide. There is a Teacher's Guild which manages the training and supervision of Dance leaders and supports out-reach work to develop the Dances in new countries (particularly those whose economy is not strong or where there has been recent discord). There is an affiliated U.K. Network.