Dancing for Faith and Unity


Photo by Gabrielle Renteria- Reporter

Gabrielle Renteria, Reporter

Members of the California Lutheran University community gathered on Tuesday, Oct. 15 for a celebration of culture and spirituality through song and dance. The Concert for Unity, sponsored by the Artists and Speakers Committee, featured the Yuval Ron Ensemble and an authentic Sufi whirling dervish performance.

Campus Pastor Scott Maxwell-Doherty said the event was a privilege to put on. 

“The rhythmic repetitiveness of  the music moves people to a sense of experiencing God in this way,” Maxwell-Doherty said.

According to the events page on Cal Lutheran’s website, the concert was a display of musical traditions of Judaism, Sufism and the early Christian Church of the Middle East with the aim of creating an interfaith celebration. 

The show began with an opening statement from Director of New Initiatives Peter Gordon. He said the event was a mission of unity and faith through performance. After his opening, the concert began with the ensemble starting to play their traditional instruments. 

As the instruments continued, a female singer began to sing. The music swelled, filling the chapel with sounds from a plethora of different countries, including Yemen, Israel, Morocco and Armenia.

As the concert progressed, members of the ensemble invited the audience to get up and express themselves through personal dance, which many attendees took to heart. Attendees rose and filled the front of the chapel as they took part in the dancing. 

Ensemble member Sukhawat Ali Khan, a Indian-Pakistani native and long time practitioner of traditional Sufi music, said the event was full of love, unity and acceptance, and considers events such as this to be incredibly fulfilling.

“The best part of this is being able to perform for young people. We see the young people being moved by the music and the dance and we think, ‘yes! This is what we do this for,’” Ali Khan said. 

After a short intermission, the concert continued with more song and dance, including a performance of the whirling dervish by Aziz Abbatiello. He gave insight into the intense discipline the performers go through to be able to perfect their craft. 

“The most important thing to remember is that it’s not really a performance, it’s like movement prayer. The movements are to direct spiritual energy through the heart,” Abbatiello said.

Abbatiello said the dancing and the music flow together as a spiritual display of faith. He said he felt blessed to be able to participate in these events and to be able to perform at Cal Lutheran.

“This is representative of Abrahamic traditions and it’s focus is on making peace through music and unity. That’s the work of prayer,” Abbatiello said.