Welcome to Dancing Peacock Paradise

“Where we all can be as One”

by “DiAnahita” Kanoy
Owner, Dance Leader & Mentor, Sufi Teacher, and Manual Laborer

There is a place, peaceful and calm
Where all your cares float away.
A place to sing, a place to dance
A place to meditate and pray.
Dancing Peacock Paradise ~ Music’s in the air
A place where people come to share
Dancing Peacock Paradise ~ Hearts open there
A place where people really care!

Rainbow over Beauty Lake
Welcome to Dancing Peacock Paradise!
Guitarist and Composer
Kathy Staines

This song, composed by our talented and dedicated guitarist Kathy Staines, conveys the ambiance of our north Florida retreat center and monthly dance venue.

Over thirty years ago, my husband, Allan McRae, and I were visualizing and praying for a place with woods, water, and wonder for a home site. What we found exceeded our hopes, with a heart-shaped lake out front, old oaks and pines, plenty of native foliage, and a large house, which all needed loving care and lots of physical labor to bring out the beauty.

Allan & Diana

After my beloved Allan died in 2000, I renovated the house to let a large dance room emerge, and added the cottage and several little screen rooms around the fifty acres of woods to provide rustic accommodations. Being an hour from almost anywhere (Gainesville and Ocala the closest towns), would anyone come into the unknown countryside for Dances of Universal Peace?

Ya Mujib! The answer, a fulfilling yes! And now eighteen years later, we have hosted countless dance and zikr weekends, plus over thirty longer Dance retreats with well-known leaders, and also dance leader trainings and Sufi meetings.

The transporting experience of our monthly dance events is described by one of our dancers, Barclay Braden, in her book Faith at Hand — Finding My Way to Depth Journaling:

“High among my all-time favorite life experiences are the recurring occasions of coming together for these dances, dedicated to the fervent hope for peace to prevail upon earth, I continue to find myself touched at the core to be standing in a circle, with twenty to thirty kindred spirits. We are moving, chanting, singing, mostly in unison, sometimes in parts. Again and again and again. I am transported to a place of rich appreciation for all traditions, for this convergence of all that’s held sacred.”

We dance for a couple of hours in the afternoon to simple, stirring, entrancing music of guitar, viola, cello, and percussion. On occasion we have also enjoyed the accompaniment of flute, keyboard, stand-up bass, hammered dulcimer, and even a visiting harp player.

Before and after the dances, we enfold ourselves in nature: sitting by the lake, paddling in little boats, walking the labyrinth, exploring the woods trails, feeding the chickens, petting the Himalayan cats, and marveling at the shimmering glory of the peacocks. Opportunities abound for taking photographs. Look at our happy faces on our web site’s homepage at www.PeacockParadise.org

Following the unifying gratitude of a singing grace, we relish a vegetarian potluck buffet spread out in the large cottage porch where we eat and nurture friendships with a splendid view of Beauty Lake.

Back at the house, or sometimes in the Gazebo, we gather for zikr, deepening into our connection with each other and the divine.

To bring us back to the mundane plane before driving home or retiring to inviting sleep-over quarters, we continue to feast in the friendly atmosphere of the large house kitchen: “hearts still soaring on the wings of our elevated state, we taste the sweetness of shared desserts and sustaining conversation.” (Barclay)

With an average of 25 dancers at the ‘regular’ dance every month, some 250 to 300 dancers come every year, most for the day; others who travel from two to five hours away or even out-of-state spend the night and have a pleasant breakfast together, feasting on eggs from the happy, free range chickens in the yard.

People who have attended sometimes write informally about their experience, such as the following note after a dance:

“Thank you for one of the best weekends I’ve ever spent.

Tree house at
Dancing Peacock Paradise

How often do you get to sleep in a swinging bed in a tree house? Your house and grounds are so beautiful – really a paradise. Even your animals are picture perfect. The image I will hold in my head for the weekend is Charlemagne the peacock, dancing in the background as you were teaching us a dance. The whole experience was magical. The love, energy and pure joy of the dances have me intoxicated. Thank you for having these dances at your home, letting us experience paradise for an afternoon.”

Occasionally individuals come for solitary Sufi retreats, to immerse themselves in nature, and do practices in serene surroundings. Few locales are as natural, beautiful, quiet, and private.

When you are in Florida, visit us at the ‘Yellow Gate’ on 4th Saturdays. Meanwhile, you can subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter on the website.

Look around, and you may see
A peacock dancing in the sun.
Smiles on faces, warm embraces
Where we all can be as one.
Dancing Peacock Paradise ~ Love is in the air
A place where people come to share
Dancing Peacock Paradise ~ Hearts open there
A place where people really care.*

Gazebo beside Beauty Lake at Dancing Peacock Paradise

This article first appeared in Dances of Universal Peace North America (DUPNA) newsletter Summer 2018 issue.

*Listen to Kathy Staines perform her song online at: www.soundcloud.com/kathy-staines

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