Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Romans 12:1

Last updated: Apr 21, 2024

Theokinesis (θεόκινησις) is a Christian-based movement practice that welcomes participants of all backgrounds and abilities to engage in sacred and creative dance theatre. Through Theokinesis, the body becomes a vessel guided by God. Witnesses surrender themselves to a dance of prayer. The practice nurtures the creative flow for spontaneous expression and presentation.

THEO – God

He alone is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Psalm 62:2

Christ is The Rock that doesn’t move. He is Unconditional Love, a palm sustaining us. He is The Groom and The Ground, both our salvation and the dance floor.

Any mention of God in Theokinesis points to God as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. Furthermore, any mention (in class) of Source, Divine, The Most High, Wellspring, etc. also simply means God.

KINESIS – Movement

The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Genesis 1:1:2

Kinesis is motion. While internal motionless motivation for prayer may be the starting point, it must go further. Imagine loving someone but never expressing it. Hence our prayer is a dance.

When motion is taken further, it is the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit cannot be earned through actions, but is rather received through surrender to God and faith (trust) alone. Even then, it is still at God’s discretion.

At the beginning of Genesis, this Holy Spirit moved gracefully upon the waters, symbolizing the union of the material and spiritual.

A later illustration of this union became the sanctification of The Holy Virgin Mary, who represents both Matter and Motherhood, thereby exemplifying the divine blessing bestowed upon Creation by God. It is through the Holy Spirit entering Mary that this sanctification was realized (Luke 1:35).

* * *

In Theokinesis, the goal is to establish a personal relationship with God, responding through the body, and transforming into a mystical servant. The body and immediate space become the church.

The practice grew from a desire to create a new chapter in the world of butoh dance theatre where a powerful Christian-based sacred dance could occur.

Butoh founder Kazuo Ohno’s Christian Faith

Butoh while certainly not associated with Christianity has had its intersections with it. First off, butoh’s co-founder, Kazuo Ohno, had always identified as a Christian. His first performance outside of Japan in 1980 even took place in Nancy, France at the Church of St. Fiacre where he performed Invitation of Jesus. Then two weeks later, he would perform the same piece in Paris at Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas Church.1

See a short video recitation of Kazuo Ohno’s poem Invitation of Jesus here.

Yoshito, Kazuo Ohno’s son, explained how, for instance, Kazuo practiced his Christianity in butoh where expressions such as “God is great” or “Thank you” were not verbalized but instead expressed in his butoh.2

The Dead Sea by Kazuo & Yoshito Ohno (around 1985)

Yoshito once asked Kazuo to show him how being a Christian was related to being a butoh artist. Kazuo responded that he would embark on a pilgrimage to Bethlehem, considering it a return to his spiritual birthplace, “as if Christ is walking” (Nakamura interview). The pilgrimage culminated in the The Dead Sea in 1985, where both Kazuo and Yoshito took part. Although Tatsumi Hijikata choreographed Yoshito’s dance in this performance, it was Kazuo whom Hijikata commented on after the show, saying, “Finally, a spiritual butoh dancer came to us.”3.

Kazuo Ohno would go on to perform The Dead Sea a total of 37 times throughout the world.

See a short video recitation of Kazuo Ohno’s poem Invitation of Jesus here.

Butoh founder Tatsumi Hijikata’s Final Moments

Tatsumi Hijikata, the other co-founder of butoh, infused the dance form with its darker undertones. He frequently criticized Kazuo for his belief in God. However, in a surprising revelation at Hijikata’s deathbed, to the astonishment of Yoshito, he confessed that his ultimate fear was God, and his parting words were: “In my last moments, God’s light . . .”4

See a short video about this here.

* * *

Theokinesis takes off where the Ohnos were in their personal life and where Hijikata left off—with God.

Theokinesis draws inspiration from the entirety of Christian history, encompassing saints, Christian mystics, and the early desert fathers. It establishes a foundation in both Orthodox and Catholic canons without seeking to deviate from them.

Any divergence from scripture identified either by guide or witness should be acknowledged and rectified. Theokinesis is meant to be tested biblically so as to keep a sound integrity.

Theokinesis is a growing pedagogy and so is consistently tinkering with itself.

Dance as Prayer

My butoh is a prayer.

Yoshito Ohno5

Prayer is any address toward God. When dance is a prayer, this means that our dance is focused on God in some shape or fashion and becomes a prayformance.

6 Wings of Theokinesis

We can enter our prayformance through 6 seraphic wings. These are starting places for our sacred dance, and are the 6 last navigation page links on this website. Every wing serves God.

6 Seraphic Wings of Theokinesis

Dance becomes a celebration echoing hallelujah — a fusion of Hebrew ‘hallel’ (praise) and ‘jah’ (God). This is a dance at the outer court of the Tabernacle, a spotlight on the magnificent glory of God.


This is the dance of Passover intertwined with cleansing and shadow work. Aligned with the Festival of Spring, it mirrors the transformative journey of Christ’s Last Supper, a symbolic “passing over” of destructive forces.


This is the inner sanctum of the Tabernacle. Here, worship unfolds, inviting those who have embraced Jesus into the sacred space.


This is a mystical dance aligned with the Festival of Summer, a dance of celebration where the Holy Spirit takes whole of one’s being, resulting in a trance and prophetic dance.


This dance is dedicated to deliverance, exorcism, warding off evil, protection, and ultimately, triumph.


This is the dance of the holy fool, unfolding with deliberate unruliness, revealing scriptural truth through playful acts. It serves to spotlight contradictions and provoke further connection with God.

The 6 wings frequently intertwine, creating a fluid dance where moments arise when multiple wings are active simultaneously. Perhaps there may even come a point when all the wings engage simultaneously.

7 Fiery Feathers of Each Wing

Each wing has 7 fiery feathers representing specific types of potential subtle movement possible for each wing.

Each feather can come in an endless variety of color (world) which in Theokinesis has the potential for a direct connection to physical movement inspired by scripture, mystical Christian literature, or personal holy vision or experience. These colors are specific components (or choreographic units) of Theokinesis butoh-fu (butoh notation). Like with the 6 seraphic wings, the 7 feathers may also intertwine, leading to increasingly complex movement.

The 7 feathers also honor the 7 days of creation though they are not in a 1-1 correspondence outside of the first feather (impulse) and the last feather (death).

7 Fiery Feathers
Shock (Energy, Impulse, Flick, Jump)

This subtle movement composed of type II twitch (anaerobic) muscle fibers and is the seed movement of all the other feathers outside of death (rest). This movement can also be a peacock feather which is associated with a moment of surprise.

This feather has a correspondence to the first day of creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). This is the most mysterious and peacock impulse there ever was—the creation of something out of nothing.

This fiery feather can have a close association with the fire body.

A Drop of Holy Water

The subtle shock movement after a drop of holy water hits a part of the body. This can be a little instant reminder to get back to the path of God’s righteousness.

Elijah Being Woken

Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

1 Kings 19:5-7

There is a sudden impulse that occurs when being suddenly awakened. In this case, we are awakened by the touch of an angel.

Edge of Jesus’ Cloak

She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

Luke 8:44

The edge of Jesus’ cloak subtly touches different parts of the body causing the body to react in healing impulses.

Shower of Roses

St. Therese of Lisieux (1873 – 1897) “shower of roses” symbolizes both a physical and spiritual manifestation of her promised intercession from heaven. While on her deathbed, Therese could witness the blooming rose bushes outside, reflecting her love for roses and her childhood devotion of throwing rose petals on the Blessed Sacrament. Despite her humble and hidden life, she held a deep faith that God had significant plans for her beyond earthly existence. Therese anticipated her mission to continue in heaven, vowing to shower the earth with roses and to bring forth a multitude of little saints. After her death, this promise materialized as miraculous occurrences, including the sudden appearance and fragrance of roses, as well as reported healings and spiritual transformations attributed to her intercession, fulfilling her mission to make God loved on earth.6

St. Therese’s rose petal falls from the sky, touching the body that react in impulses of love for God.

Sword of The Bible

Bob Larson‘s Bible in his exorcisms is used as a physical sword of the Word of God which when used once provokes in those being delivered an immediate painful shock.


The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them.

Psalm 18:13-14

When engaged in jest play, one acting as the enemy feels God’s lightening jolts.

Peacock Feather

(1) The shock reaction of Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:26).

(2) The shock reaction of the people when the paralyzed man is healed (Acts 3:1).

(3) The shock reaction of the crowd when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44).

Vibration (Rhythm, Micro/Macro Shaking, Sustained Shock)

Vibration is what happens when an impulse repeats itself, involving a back-and-forth movement around a central point. With no impetus, there can be no vibration. It can be unnoticeable (e.g. music vibration) or large (e.g. shaking the body to a beat).

His Word Like Fire

But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

Jeremiah 20:9

When the Holy Spirit takes over, it can feel like fire is stuck inside the body and the body will shake uncontrollably.

Shake The Snake

Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.

Acts 28:5

Shake out the darkness one has into the fire.

Paul & Silas’s Escape

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.

Acts 16: 25-34

Move with the shaking of an earthquake that not only shakes the ground, but also breaks the shackles.

Holy Laughter

One of the possibilities of being touched by the Holy Spirit is this inability to contain all this fire, and in some people it results in bouts of laughter that will shake whole body.

Holy Weep

Sometimes when we are at points of deep surrender, we might have possible deep cries which causes convulsions in our diaphragm which can shake the whole body.

Trembling Before God

And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling.

2 Corinthians 7:15

There is a very common misconception when it comes to fearing God. Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel put it like this. Being a God-fearing person does not mean being scared of God, but rather about having reverential awe. One has a fear of Him, not in the sense of being frightened that He’ll punish one severely over a mistake, but rather, it is a fear rooted in not wanting to disappoint Him. The devotee of God becomes cautious not to do anything wrong because of the fear of hurting His heart because His love is so immense that it’s not he doesn’t deserve getting his heart broken.

In this way, we can tremble before god due to how profoundly awesome and loving he is in comparison to us sinners. These trembles then are sacred.


Sway and wave represent a progression from vibration, exploring diverse dimensions inherent in the three-dimensional nature of vibration itself. These movements are often linked with the fluidity of water or the gentle swaying of trees in nature.

Waving will use the principles of Noguchi taiso, a somatic form where the body is visualized as a water bag. So this fiery feather has a close correlation to the water body.

Fish in Body

There is a fish which is also a symbol of Christianity and faith. The body is empty except for water and one feels the fish swimming throughout the different parts of the body. The body moves accordingly. Gradually the fish multiply. Do the fish take us on a journey of faith or walking in the path of Christ?

Drunk on God

Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a strong man overcome by wine because of the Lord and his holy words.

Jeremiah 23:9

When the Spirit of God takes over, we can appear as drunks. Even in Acts while in Pentecost, Paul says, “These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!” (Acts 2:15)

Violently Swaying Boat

Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

Matthew 8: 24-27

Forgotten Among the Lilies

   I abandoned and forgot myself,

   laying my face on my Beloved;

   all things ceased; I went out from myself,

   leaving my cares

   forgotten among the lilies. 

Saint John of the Cross, The Dark Night (1576)

Feel sway and waves that occur while standing or laying on a lily pad.

Menorah Candle Flame

Become a gently swaying menorah candle which represents spiritual illumination. Just as the menorah was the only source of light for the entire Tabernacle, Jesus Christ teaches us that He is the one true source of our light.

Rotate (Twist, Turn, Squirm)

Rotation in the body can range from large to micro.

Ezekiel’s Wheels

This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like topaz, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not change direction as the creatures went. Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.

Ezekiel 1:16-18

We utilize this description of the choirs or Thrones class of angel to dance the Ezekiel’s Wheels in our body via anything in our body that is able to rotate.

Turns of Salvation

Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’

Ezekiel 33:11

Let the turning of a body parts represent the turning away from evil, and turning toward God.


But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.

Psalm 22:6

Here David shows his vulnerability and humility as a human being. We can squirm within the body as a sign of humility and being not just any worm, but God’s worm.


Just as the lungs expand and contract, the entire body engages in this in tensegrity such as when the front of the torso expands, then that means the back of the torso must contract, viseversa.

Breath of Angels

See this Exercise #1 of the Worship page.

God’s Breath Fills The Space

See Exercise #2 of the Worship page.

Contraction Burden

See Exercise #7 of the Shadow page under in the Humbled & Crucified section.

Collapse (Falls, Micro-Falls)

There are an enormous ways for the body or parts of the body to fall.

Falling in Love

See Exercise #10 of the Worship page.

New Age Tower

See Exercise #6 of the Jest page.

Death (Rest, Surrender, Stillness)

The correspondence to this feather is the 7th day of creation where God rests. Death is an auspicious phenomenon because this is when people will meet God if they have not decided turned away from Him and instead live without Love and Truth.

The Valley of Dry Bones
Gustave Doré, 1866

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Ezekiel 37:4-10

Initially, experience the sensation of being mere dry bones on the ground. Then, feel the bones move as if manipulated by an external force, akin to the handling a suspended human skeleton model. The bones are not yet alive.

After experiencing this dry skeleton world, return to the ground as a sack of lifeless and motionless dry bones. Then, feels the miracle of God. The marrow of the bones begin filling with Life, The Holy Spirit. Tendons and muscles begin to generate. The organs and the skin regenerate. Christ’s breath resurrects the body to a standing position. The dance of the resurrected warrior begins.

Blue Flower

See the exercise at the Shadow page under the Dance of Resurrection/Rebirth section.

Funeral Procession of The Lover

See Exercise 11 of the Worship page.

Life to Death Offering

See Exercise 18 of the Worship page.

Freeze to The Lord

See Exercise 6 at the first section the Spirit page.


Exercises are called flaps. Each of the 6 seraphic wings have various flaps. These flaps do not need to be engaged in order, but can even be put into a chance operation/game. For instance, one typical die can be rolled for the 6 seraphic wings. Then depending on how many flaps each seraphic wing has (e.g. the praise wing has 14 total), a number can be chosen at random via someone calling out a number or utilizing a range-specific random number generator/wheel online.

Why Butoh?

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:18

Of my 12 years of exposure to various genres of dance or movement—Modern, Ballet, Jazz, Contact, etc.—the genre that has by far captured the most depth, physically, mentally and beyond, has been butoh.

Intersections of Butoh & Christianity

Because butoh possesses an inherently otherworldly or spirit-filled quality, it has the ability to align with the Christian practice that is also otherworldly and spirit-filled. This is how it was able to align with the co-creator or butoh, Kazuo Ohno, a devoted Christian.

Kazuo Ohno, however, is not the only person to have practiced butoh within a Christian lens, but since August 2010, the Manhattan-based butoh artist Marilyn Green has led a group of butoh dancers and chorus in Christian-based butoh at a church nearby the former Twin Towers.7

Christian Mysticism & Butoh

To embody the tenants of Christianity deeply in the body lends itself to a form of Christian mysticism. What exactly do I mean by mysticism here? It’s simply a raw form of Christianity, one that foremost involves a relationship with God instead of relying too heavily on an institution. In a relationship with God, naturally, visions and insights are illuminated. That is the “mysticism” side of Christianity.

So though butoh in general is a practice of spirits (and those who are secular may call them qualia or worlds), it is important to discern that not everything that is of sprit is truly beneficial. “Spiritual” does not automatically mean benign. Butoh, throughout its history, has been more of a neutral artistic tool, not inherently related to any faith, and susceptible to misuse like any other life activity.

Commonly, butoh has been viewed as a dance of transformation where shadows or the subconscious are the material for dance. But just as “spiritual” is a neutral term, so is “transformation.” What exactly do we mean by transformation? Sometimes a transformation may simply be something allowed to fester and ferment, and not all things that ferment are wholesome. Sometimes butoh shadow work is “butoh bypassing.” Sometimes destructive behavior can be enabled under the excuse of embodied art or self-help.

Nietzsche once said the famous quote, “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster.” Yet, I feel more accurately, it should also have included “or befriending monsters.” While fighting or ignoring one’s shadows can certainly turn one into the thing one is trying to fight or ignore, the case can also ring true for “befriending” shadows.

In Theokinesis, we sometimes simply have to cut things out or put them on the cross. To quote Matthew 5:30, “And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Theokinesis uses butoh like a contemporary church would use a guitar. On its own, a guitar is neutral. Consider what butoh would look like after it were plunged into baptismal waters.

Butoh, Christianity & Paradox

Butoh scholars Helena Katinkoski and Jochelle Elise Pereña proposed that paradox was one thing separating butoh from any other art form. Katinkoski claimed butoh was “a liminal art that arrives to non-dual performing by embodiment of a paradox,”8 and similarly, Pereña claimed “[Butoh] is a liminal art, meaning that it is part of the threshold or limen between worlds, and it is also part of both worlds – a paradox.”9

“Bipolar oppositionalism” coined by Arata Isozaki is what Katinkoski felt Hijikata based his butoh on such as death being life and ugly being beautiful.10

What are some other common paradoxes associated with butoh in general?

  • Debilitated yet lively
  • Obscure yet expressive
  • Infantile yet genius

Curiously, scripture is teeming with paradox or what I call Christian koans, many of which intersect eloquently with butoh, especially with the common motif of vulnerability.

  • Weak yet strong: We gain strength by being weak. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
  • Foolish yet wise: We are fools for Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:10)
  • Dead yet resurrected: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)
  • Enslaved yet free: But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22)
  • Infantile yet saved: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)

There are too many to reference that could make for great butoh embodiment. So paradox itself is a another otherworldly intersection between butoh and Christianity.

Navigating Labels

Some would suggest eliminating the butoh label entirely and framing Theokinesis as a creative free movement practice or physical theatre in the same way Min Tanaka distanced himself from the label and wanted his practice to simply be Body Weather. This is a matter of preference, considering the desire to acknowledge origins and the impact a practice has had on its current form.

Butoh’s Liberating Essence

Regardless, butoh stands out as an exceptionally free movement practice, arguably the most free, alongside perhaps Janet Adler’s Authentic Movement which I’ve had limited exposure to. On top of that, butoh’s use of butoh-fu (butoh notation) is an incredibly rich way in which to form a multi-faceted completely embodied dance theatre that breaks old movement patterns and inefficient habits.

Ultimately, the crucial aspect in Theokinesis is the communion of one’s body and movement with the Holy Spirit and the resulting theatre ministry that follows.

Butoh can help us go beyond a lukewarm Christianity, where we can take on an active, embodied role in our relationship with God.

A Guide’s Responsibility

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

James 3:1

Theokinesis adheres to biblical canon, and so any deviation ought to be addressed and rectified. As the quote above shows, the stakes are high for the dance minister.

I end with a quote from the dance minister Marlita Hill:

We till the heart as we lead the people in praise and worship, as we lead them in gratitude toward God, and as we lead them in remembrance of who God is to them and for them, and what He has done in them and for them.11

  1. Ohno, Kazuo. An Invitation to Jesus. Dance Archive Network. ↩︎
  2. Ohno, Yoshito (1999) Ohno Kazuo: Tamashii no kate (Ohno Kazuo: Bread/Food for the Soul), Tokyo: Firumua ̄tosha. Page 23. ↩︎
  3. Fraleigh, Sondra (2006) Hijikata Tatsumi and Ohno Kazuo. Page 67. ↩︎
  4. Ohno, Kazuo and Ohno, Yoshito (2004) Kazuo Ohno’s World from Within and Without, translated by John Barrett, Wesleyan, CT: Wesleyan University Press. Page 137. ↩︎
  5. Mizohata, Mina. About the Kazuo Ohno / Yoshito Ohno Digital Archive. 2024.  ↩︎
  6. Society of the Little Flower. FAQs. ↩︎
  7. Green, Marilyn. Choreography. Marilyn Green Art. ↩︎
  8. Katinkoski, Helena. “Non-performing – Liminality and Embodiment in Butō Dance”. BA Thesis. The University of Stockholm.2017. Page 44. ↩︎
  9. Pereña, Jochelle Elise. Chasing shadows: Exploring Butoh and the Liminal. M.F.A. Mills College, 2011. Page 9. ↩︎
  10.  Ibid. Page 17. ↩︎
  11. Hill, Marlita. Dancers! Assume the Position: The What, the Why, and the Impact of the Dancer’s Ministry. 2014. Page 62. ↩︎