I have been a Butoh dancer since 1997 and am one of the founder members of the Oxford-based experimental dance group Café Reason Butoh Dance Theatre. I came to Butoh through the avant-garde Japanese martial art Shintaido (‘new body way’) which I practised for many years. Both Shintaido and Butoh arose in post-Hiroshima Japan in the late 1950s and early 1960s, as writers, artists and dancers sought a new mode of  expression – indeed, a new way of being. Both forms emphasise the essential connection of the body with the inner self and with the outer environment, and strive for the authentic expression of that connection. Both, at core, are saying ‘here I am, here in my body, here in this place, here in this moment‘. Different, perhaps, is that while Shintaido is seeking the light, Butoh is also prepared to enter the shadows; to engage with the darker aspects of
what it is to be human.

Since its emergence as an almost underground movement, the radical aesthetic of Butoh, modulated by its international take-up and its many different practitioners, has evolved and diversified, and it has been a constant challenge to define it successfully. If anything, this is perhaps what does define Butoh; its refusal to be constrained by tradition, culture, taste, an established aesthetic or an accepted canon of movement. It constantly reinvents itself, always searching for the truth of the body, of the spirit, of the moment.

Photos by Dariusz Dziala (close-up – improvisation at The Jam Factory) and Paul Freestone (solo from ‘The If Path’ at the Pegasus Theatre)

I have danced with Café Reason since 1997 and have been involved in most of its productions, both stage-based and site-specific. The group operates as a collective, with all members contributing to the creation of new pieces. We also host open-platform experimental arts evenings, encouraging the development of new work and collaborations with other art forms. At these ‘Diamond Night’ events I have presented my own choreography and solo work, some of which then formed part of the full-length theatre piece Matrix in 2011, at the Pegasus Theatre in Oxford. Between 2013 and 2014 the group collaborated with voice artist Anne L Ryan to create a new piece of physical theatre, The Heart’s Desire, exploring the world of the senses, which we performed at The Old Fire Station theatre in Oxford.