Dancing on Behalf of Peace

An Interview with Marla Durden and Christine Gautreaux about Dances on Behalf of Peace


Marla Durden and Christine Gautreaux are both leaders and participants in the InterPlay community. InterPlay is a national and international organization that facilitates improvisational experiences for people to feel embodied and to connect to each other. Marla recently had the idea to create a Dances on Behalf of Peace online event and is producing it with the help of her colleague and friend Christine. Here, they share the impetus for the event, how people can get involved, and what dancing on behalf of peace means to them.

Dances on Behalf of Peace will be held 2/19 to 2/29 on Zoom at 5 p.m. Pacific/ 8 p.m. Eastern for 30 minutes a night. This free event is open to anyone, and folks can join for one session or all. Learn more at danceonbehalfofpeace.org.

Photos courtesy Dances on Behalf of Peace.

Several dancers wearing black make poses with their arms reaching in many directions. They are inside a church.


How would you describe InterPlay to someone unfamiliar with it?

Christine: InterPlay is an active creative way to unlock the wisdom of the body. InterPlay as an organization is at the crossroads of art, performance, social justice, and spirituality. It’s not therapy, but it’s therapeutic. People use it in all different ways, but it’s definitely used for connecting to ourselves and community building. We’re committed to racial equity and transformation as an organization.

InterPlay integrates body, mind, heart, and spirit to uplift the collective group body experience. Life and communities have become so fragmented. InterPlay helps to pull everything back together, so we get more of what we want. It teaches the language and ethic of play and body wisdom in a deep and powerful way. InterPlay is a community of people around the world who speak the shared language of story, sound, movement, and stillness in order to connect and unlock the wisdom of the body. We believe in human and earth sustainability, creating spaces for people to celebrate, grieve, find ease, joy, be seen and heard, and be wholly holy humans together. Certified leaders and communities of play can be found in 37 states across the nation and 12+ countries of the world.

Marla: InterPlay, for me, is improvisational arts and social justice, and where those two meet. It’s also about centering our innate birthrights of story, movement, silence, and song. It really is reconnecting us to that which is innately wise within us.

A man and a woman on a wood floor dancing. Both are wearing black and reaching hands downward toward each other.

Can you tell me a little about yourselves and where you’re coming from?

Christine: I got involved with InterPlay through one of my mentors and friends, Dr. Sheila K. Collins, more than 20 years ago. About eight years ago, I became a certified InterPlay leader. My background is in social work, and I use InterPlay with my clients and community groups. I am currently serving as the Integrity and Innovation Coordinator for the national and international InterPlay office. I use InterPlay every day in my personal life and in my work.

Marla: My first time doing InterPlay was at a New Years Eve party in 2016. I jumped right in and became part of a performance group. I became a leader in 2021. I did not have a movement practice prior to joining InterPlay. I come from a background working in churches and nonprofits. I recognized the deep spirituality that was being tapped and I was very attracted to it.

What was the impetus behind Dances on Behalf of Peace?

Marla: I recently wrote a book, The Magical You Playbook and Embodied Self-Care Journal, and as I was working on this book, I kept hearing that we should do some dances on behalf of peace. “Dances on behalf of” is an InterPlay form that we do all the time in Dance Chapel. It is a body prayer. I called up my friend Christine and said I keep hearing we should dance on behalf of peace, and Christine said absolutely. We brought it to Body Wisdom, and they said yes, so here we are dancing on behalf of peace, inner and outer, and the physicality of grace.

I also serve on the Integrity and Innovative Wisdom Council for Body Wisdom. Together with Christine, it is our charge to hold, nurture and grow what is sacred and solid, and bring freshness, new relationships and future possibilities for Body Wisdom, Inc. and the global community/movement of InterPlayers.

It is out of the fertile ground of our work and play together that this idea emerged from my unconscious body wisdom. It is actually a testament to the power of Interplay and group body. I was able to speak forth what truly we all wanted.

Christine: We were in conversation about the world and ourselves and our work, and we said we have some tools to address our personal stress levels. Everyone we know has three to five personal crises plus the world’s crises. We have tools we use in order to bring peace to ourselves so we can actively engage with the world in a peaceful manner. Before we created the event, we started doing daily dances on behalf of peace to take us out of fight or flight and put us in our parasympathetic nervous system. We know the value of switching over, relaxing, and finding peace within our bodies, and from that place affecting change.

Marla: Right after Thanksgiving, Christine and I decided to do our own personal practice of dancing on behalf of peace. That’s what solidified it.

Christine: We realized we didn’t want to wait because so many people we know personally and professionally are seeking a way to make a difference. This is a small piece. As artists and activists, we know there are so many ways to make a difference. We have to show up the way we want the world to be: being peaceful and coming from a place of joy and centeredness.

We knew there was a natural fit with Hidden Monastery, founded by Cynthia Winton-Henry. Before she retired, she founded Hidden Monastery with InterPlay Dance Chapels held five days a week online for people to do embodied prayer with an InterPlay leader. These have been going on for 9 to 10 years.

A Zoom meeting with many windows showing folks dancing in their own spaces.

Marla: I’m a dance chaplain. During the pandemic, Cynthia, being the visionary that she is, put out a call for people to open up spaces so people could come and dance “on behalf of” and have a sacred space. One of the integral things is we always dance on behalf of each other. This is part of the spiritual core of what we’re doing. Body prayer is centered as part of our somatic practice.

How is Dances on Behalf of Peace organized?

Christine: We are going to be gathering nightly from 2/19 to 2/29 at 5 p.m. Pacific/ 8 p.m. Eastern. It’ll be 30 minutes a session. We’re going to meet online, gather, have an introduction, have an honored guest from community collaborators who will do a short talk or meditation, we’ll have a certified Interplay leader leading the dance on behalf of peace, and then we’ll have some time to be in community together.

We reached out to a whole bunch of folks to be community partners (see list below). They are joining us to be part of our event and be some of our honored guests and speakers. Our goal is to build community in this way.

This is something we’re hoping to do annually and perhaps more than annually. We’re going to see how this one goes.

What does peace mean to both of you, and how does dance allow you to access peace?

Christine: I think of getting out of fight or flight to my parasympathetic nervous system. Peace, to me, is the opposite of stress. When I access that feeling of relaxation and joy, my shoulders drop from my ears. It means expansiveness and connection in community and relationship. It’s not the absence of disagreement, but the ability to connect and work things out, to be in dialogue and space together. I can access it through dance because sometimes it is difficult to access through words. My husband and I have been married for 30 years, and I’m trained as a clinical therapist. We always have a joke: When we dance together, it’s better than therapy. When you move with someone, you connect on a different level. You connect your spirit and body.

Marla: I think of the line: When there’s peace in the individual, there’s peace in the family; when there’s peace in the family, there’s peace in the home; when there’s peace in the home, there’s peace in the community.; when there’s peace in the community, there’s peace in the world. For me, peace is about coming to center and being in trust. If my words, actions, and thoughts are all aligned, I’m creating waves of peace as I move through the world. The only way we can hold the charge of peace is to be fully embodied and connected to the earth and in right relationship with myself and the earth so I can be in right relationship with those around me. When we dance, we are able to access the unconscious part of ourselves and affect change in a way that words cannot. Dance allows the body to access immense intelligence.

A flier with the participation info for Dance on Behalf of Peace


To learn more, visit danceonbehalfofpeace.org.

Community partners for Dances on Behalf of Peace:

AXIS Dance Company
Bloom World
Everyday Activism Habits
Hidden Monastery
Inner Ally
Kaira Jewel
Modern Root Woman
Oakland Peace Center
One and All Wisdom
Somatic Expression
Spiritual Director at Starr King School for the Ministry
Stance on Dance
Sustaining International Sisters
The Art of Grieving
The Hidden Monastery
The Universal Dancer
Women Connected in Wisdom
Women Helping Others Advance (W.H.O.A.)
YES! World Jam

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