Spring Festival (The Shadow Dance of Passover)

Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

Corinthians 5:7

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 11:14-21

The dance of passover here is also the dance of travail, cleaning & shadow work. This is the Festival of Spring— “Spring cleaning” the “passing over” of the forces of destruction. This was Christ’s Last Supper.

Evidently, this also becomes the dance of celebration for being clean or having the ability to go through travesty.

During Passover, Jewish tradition involved removing all traces of leavened products from homes as a symbol of spiritual purification, the removal of impurity, and a renewed commitment to living in more spiritually cleansed life. Passover represents breaking free from bondage. We break free by placing our darkness on the cross. The passover lamb is Christ.

Humbled/Crucified Body

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

The humbled or crucified body is the weakened body. This is the complete opposite of the pride body.

In no particular order we Clean, Repent, Offer, Surrender, and Sacrifice (CROSS) which takes a tangible form through prostration, bending, kneeling, adopting fetal positions, or standing vulnerably, much like in the manner of the ash body as exemplified in Job 30:19: ‘I am reduced to dust and ashes.’

This dance is not easy but necessary and profoundly rewarding. Each movement embodies the release of inner turmoil, echoing the Israelites’ journey to liberation from the clutches of bondage. CROSS encapsulates the spiritual metamorphosis one undergoes during this dance of repentance. Just as the Israelites stepped from enslavement into freedom, we step from shadows into light.

9 Exercises
Exercise 1: Danced By The Cross

Participants embark on a quest to find two sticks, and upon discovery, they use a piece of string to bind them into the shape of a cross. In the spirit of Kazuo Ohno’s approach, where once he allowed a rose to dance him (not the other way around), here it is the cross that takes the lead, guiding the participant in the dance.

Exercise 2: The Art of Walking Slow

Within a thought so great,

our souls Little and modest grow,

And, by its vastness awed,

we learn The art of walking slow.

Frederick William Faber (1814 – 1863)

Fundamental to the butoh world is knowing the slow walk or ash walk. In Faber’s hymn called The Thought of God, it is thinking about God which is what makes us modest and learn to walk slowly.

Video Clip Example: In the Theokinesis piece A Living Sacrifice from 18:52 to 19:15, one engages in an ash walk of holding a dove near the heart and gradually extending the arms toward the people in offering.

Exercise 3: Waterfall Solace

This is an across the floor psychodrama. Take time to locate a recent negative emotion such as resentment, anger, shame, or guilt and hold it solid as if the whole body were one solid piece of rock. This will be a slow stone walk that gradually transforms into a waterfall which is a blessing from angels. The waterfall erodes the rough edges down into a smooth pebble that one holds in the hand as a precious object symbolizing God’s mercy and one’s new body of flesh. Dance the new body of flesh.

Exercise 4: Life Review

This is another across the floor psychodrama. Begin at one end of the room in fetal position and begin the passage of life from birth to one’s current age. Every step of the way, live out both negative and positive moments in one’s life. Christ’s Love is with you every step of the way like a parent. Once the current age is reached, take any regrets or guilts from the past and put them on the cross. Dance the new body.

Exercise 5: Palms Over The Face

Cover the face with the palms and simply feel what occurs within the body. The hands are like an open book, one’s book of life, even the Bible. Judge yourself, lovingly. Move what is being felt.

Exercise 6: Silent Scream

I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication.

Psalm 142:1

In hyper slow motion, express a deep, inaudible cry of the soul through facial expression and a silent, open-mouthed gesture, embodying the Psalms’ raw cry to God.

Exercise 7: Contraction Burden

Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you.

Psalm 55:22

Contract the entire body into a fetal position tightly. Hold for a good 5 or 10 seconds. Release your burdens to Lord Jesus Christ. 

Exercise 8: Stones Burden

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.

Colossians 2:13-15

Look for stones that represent one’s darkness or sins. Either another person or the participant places each stone at various parts of the body such as: (1) under the arms; (2) under the legs; (3) under the neck; (4) back of the hands; (5) on the shoulders; (6) on the head.

Slowly, one walks with these burdens until reaching the end of a space of the cross where these rocks are then released. It is Jesus that delivers us from our burdens.

Exercise 9: Blinded By The Light

Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

Acts 9:3-9

One begins as a nonbeliever, but by Jesus’s mercy, one is knocked down and made blind. There is a dance of the stricken blindness until eventually (scripturally due to Ananias), Saul is healed and lives a new life as a believer.

Dance @ The Outer Tabernacle

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.

Matthew 27:50-51

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

John 3:5

In a similar vein to Passover’s removal of impurity, the outer court of the tabernacle was associated with various rituals of purification and offerings, representing a space of transition from the mundane to the sacred. Both the outer and inner tabernacle are completely available to those who have accepted Jesus into their heart.

The outer court presented two forms of cleansing, one that occurs first before the other. To follow the two rites is to become born again in Spirit (fire) and in pure materiality (water).

Fire Cleanse (Sacrifice) via the Brazen Altar

Fire! Fire! Fire!

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.

Acts 3:19

Key: Humility, vulnerability, and courage.

This is shadow work (repentance) of sacrificing one’s sins or shadows upon the fire for the greater good of the whole body and soul. Then one will be born again of the spirit.

Stages of Repentance

  1. You become aware of a shadow or sin.
  2. There are feelings of remorse.
  3. You renounce your sin or turn away from it.
  4. You’re restored.
Water Cleanse via the Brazen Laver

Wash! Wash! Wash!

First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

Matthew 23:26

Clean the spirit with Holy Water. Then one will be born again of water.

To see what the inner tabernacle is all about, see the worship page.

Dance of Resurrection/Rebirth

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.

Psalm 40:20

For a just man falleth seven times and riseth up again.

Proverbs 24:16

All believers go through a dark night of the soul of which there is always the daybreak that follows.

Exercise: Blue Flower

This is an across the floor psychodrama for depression based in Aaron Beck’s Triad Model of irrational beliefs about: (1) the self; (2) the world; (3) the future.1

The enemy gives a list of 4 or more irrational put down statements. With every line, the body collapses more than before, till by the time the last (or 4th) line is reached, the participant is one lump of feces on the ground. At this point, the participant dies/surrenders and mixes into the earth, creating a very fertile soil. Your soul reaches out for the tiniest seed. The seed is Christ. Gradually, this seed is allowed to blossom into a flower. The flower is a very beautiful blue color. What once was blue and sad is now a heavenly blue shining with God’s grace.

7 Weakened Bodies

Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.

John 8:34

The states of the 7 weakened bodies signify an individual’s lowest, debilitated condition following their submission to the 7 deadly shadows (vices/sins), which include: (1) pride; (2) greed; (3) lust; (4) gluttony; (5) sloth; (6) envy; (7) wrath.

Every shadow leads to a breakdown in the capacity to further entertain these darker inclinations. From a theatrical perspective, the only shadow we will deliberately avoid engaging with completely is lust. This shadow is profoundly parasitic, and even exploring it within a theatrical context can potentially lead to possession by a Jezebel/Lilith-type demon.

Once the debilitated states are experienced, the goal is to put them on the cross as sacrifice. The resurrection that occurs by the glory of Christ absolves the individual from the shadow. Then the reborn healthy body is danced in celebration.

6 Exercises
Exercise 1: The Mad King (Pride)

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 16:18

This is a character study of The Mad King. The Mad King is based in pride. Pride is said to be the first sin and is what leads to the others. The participant enters into the character of The Mad King. The intensity gradually increases until a peak is reached (a Tower of Babel moment) in which a sudden lightning bolt strikes and topples The Mad King’s tyranny. The following then is a dance of humility, a weakened body floor dance. The dance ends in a gratitude for no longer being possessed by The Mad King.

Exercise 2: You Can’t Eat Money (Greed)

An emaciated body continues to accumulate wealth and objects yet is unaware that it will never lead to a nurtured soul or everlasting life. Put the vice on the cross. Dance the resurrection.

Exercise 3: Mouth (Gluttony)

One becomes a big mouth, constantly consuming and experiencing the accumulating burden, yet never finding contentment. The consumption grows to such an extent that one can take no more and places this curse on the cross. Dance the resulting celebration.

Exercise 4: Senile Death Match (Wrath)

The competition unfolds within a fighting circle. Two participants, although entirely incapacitated to the extent that they cannot engage in any form of combat whatsoever, try to fight anyway.

Exercise 5: Deflated Balloon (Sloth)

One moves across the floor in a sloth-like manner. The body adopts a slouched, sometimes fully deflated position, yet at the same time manages to move across the space. Focus on embodying feelings of indifference and sleep to the point of death. Dance the resurrection.

Exercise 6: Green-eyed Monster (Envy)

O beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.

Shakespeare (Othello 3:3)

Dance Shakespeare’s green-eyed monster until its own logical demise then the resurrection.

Dancing the Pain of the World

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew 9:36

The world is full of lost souls. Dancing the Pain of the World is an exploration into the suffering of our neighbors. Witnesses embody the struggles of the afflicted, fostering compassion. This is an intercessional dance for those who are suffering.

Luis de Morales

This is a lesser-scale representation of Jesus’ passion, wherein he absorbed the world’s pain onto himself, the greatest act of unconditional love known. The Passion is the epitome and ultimate embodiment of Dancing the Pain of the World.

Pain of the World Dances

Kensington

Kensington is a neighborhood in northeast Philadelphia that has been experiencing a severe street opioid and tranq crisis. The streets are full of slow-moving, slouched over, collapsed, and suspended in stillness victims of drug abuse. The scene is horrifying, reminiscent of a hell on earth. There are many Kensingtons in the world to a lesser degree.

Kindred

Kindred is the name of a chain of a long term acute centers spanning the USA. The patients admitted to Kindred are incredibly sick, bedridden, often on ventilators, and some in comas.

Death Row

I see inmates on death row in the fall of modern civilization and in the family crest of its good sense. I see the original form of my dance in their walk.

Tatsumi Hijikata2

Gargoyles & Guardians

Church gargoyles are guardians. They appear only externally on the architecture of churches, especially on Gothic cathedrals. They serve the function of a gatekeeper since they are like a filter or bridge between the church and the world. Despite being in the margins, they still serve The Good. They can be of as Lord’s guard dogs.

Photo: Eugene Emmanuel Viollet le Duc

In butoh, a number of characters can present themselves in the body that are animalistic, monstrous, awkward, debilitated, or ugly. Yet nature itself often has these same characteristics. The real question to be asked is whether whatever comes out honors Jesus Christ. If yes, respect the entity as an important component of our inner ecosystem. If not, put it on the cross.

Saint Christopher

Saint Christopher is among the most unusual of saints and can be an example of a gargoyle-type figure. He is even sometimes depicted with a dog head. He is listed as a martyr by the Catholic and Orthodox Church. His story:

St. Christopher, a 7.5 ft Canaanite, sought to serve the greatest king and initially served a local ruler. However, upon realizing the ruler feared the Devil, Christopher decided to serve the Devil himself. During his quest, he encountered a band of thieves led by one who claimed to be the Devil. Yet, when this leader avoided a Christian cross, Christopher discovered a power greater than the Devil.

Guided by a hermit, Christopher learned about Christ, the King of Kings, and was advised to find a way to please Him. Choosing to work at a dangerous river, Christopher helped travelers cross, an act that pleased Christ. One day, a child approached him, and as Christopher carried the child across the river, the weight became immense. When St. Christopher asked why he was so heavy, the child stated He was the Christ and when St. Christopher carried Him, he also carried the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. The child then vanished.3

Both the gargoyle and St. Christopher serve to safeguard individuals from physical and spiritual harm. They stand at the threshold between the sacred and the profane, the earthly and the divine. They both serve as a good reminder that during shadow work, we are not to haphazardly banish everything to the point of also banishing things that serve The Good.

Always pray to Jesus Christ for the guidance in discernment and true equilibrium.

2 Exercises
Exercise 1: Pass the Monster

This is a mirroring exercise within a group circle. One individual acts out their inner shadow or monster. This entity is passed around in a circle. Once the entity is passed, the passer returns to a neutral state. We try to get the entity rotating around as quickly as possible. Mirroring the sounds as well. Once the entity returns to the original person, it is acted out one more time and then phased out. This participant privately decides whether this is a gargoyle that serves The Good or one that needs to be put on the cross.

Exercise 2: A Creature Who Loves God

Several Christian mystics such as Julian of Norwich, Meister Eckhart, John of the Cross, and Hildegard of Bingen referred to humans as creatures as a sign of humility, dependence on God, and the divine relationship with the created world. But we can take it a step further and really become creatures in more the sense that we know the word but ones that still love God. Dance a lighthearted creature who loves God.

This is not mockery even though some may perceive it as such, but rather, it emphasizes a playful, lighthearted way in which to honor God.

  1. Beck, Aaron, T.; Rush, A. John; Shaw, Brian F.; Emery, Gary (1987). Cognitive Therapy of Depression. Guilford Press. ↩︎
  2. Hijikata, Tatsumi. To Prison. TDR (1988-), Vol. 44, No. 1 (Spring, 2000), page 46 ↩︎
  3. Catholic Online. Saint Cristopher. https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=36 ↩︎