The December 43 Newsletter

Felt Connections between Quaker and Butoh Practice

As the novelist E.M. Forster once wrote, ‘Only connect’. This inspiring injunction has meant a lot to me throughout my life, and even become something of a habit. Today I would like to share with you some of the connections I see between my practice as a Quaker and as a Butoh dancer.

Butoh dance emerged in American-occupied post-war Japan and is still little known in Europe. It is not easy to define, mainly because of its commitment to resisting standard definition and easy categorization. Today though, many of us will be aware of it through the Red Rebels branch of Extinction Rebellion, whose movements and guerrilla approaches are quintessentially Butoh.

To evoke what Butoh seeks to articulate, its two founding fathers, Kazuo Ohno and Hijikata Tatsumi, called it a dance of both darkness and light; one concerned with preserving community in all its diversity, respecting messiness and shadows as well as the light within, and inspiring personal transformation.

Two key elements of its language, silence and a combination of charged stillness and movement, are used to connect with our humanness, move us away from seeing the mind as distinct from the body, and instead see the body as the home of thought and feeling. It is in such ways of seeking for a naked enlivening encounter with the source of our being I find first parallels between Quaker and Butoh practice.

It is also very much understood as a spiritual practice that can serve as a channel for grace: one in which refletion and experimentation lead to change and fresh perspectives. As Kazuo Ohno put it, ‘find the spirit and the form will take care of itself’. This resonates for me with my understanding of ministry, and the belief each of us has something new and of value to other others.

Finally, I see another connection in Butoh’s expression of deeply engrained, personal, and collective politics. Butoh was from the outset conceptualised as an activist dance form that rejects the ‘bad check called democracy’ (Hijikata Tatsumi). Hence it is often used to call attention to environmental and social issues.

Rather than my explaining more, why not come to watch a performance in Oxford? The group I practice with, Café Reason Butoh Dance Theatre, are performing at Corpus Chris College on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 January 2020. The show is called ‘Tipping Point’ and is a creative response to the threat of climate change. For more details, and to book, please see here, or go the Café Reason website at

Juliet Henderson

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The online version of the December 2019 edition is now available.

Update on the London Arms Fair Blockage Event

Meeting for Worship at the Arms Fair Protest 2019

This  2 minute video gives you a bit of the atmosphere and inspiration of the DSEI Arms Fair blockading event.

The Fair begins next Tuesday, and we were part of a rolling programme of groups blocking the setting  of the Fair: this evening at our debriefing meeting we learned that Sadiq Khan  condemns the Arms Fair, and intends to prevent it happening in London again. But we don’t know if he has that power.

Alan was arrested at 3 30, because he was so incensed by one of the police trying to break up the second Meeting for Worship half way through. Arresting people at  worship is evidently illegal. He was kept standing outside the police station in Plumstead for 4 hours , as there was such a queue of arrestees, but then got a seat during the booking process. Four hours later he phoned me to say where he was, and he was given a cell, loo, mattress and his book back. By midnight he got back to the hotel, after useful legal assistance.  The  sergeant heard his statement, and then switched off his tape recorder, and expressed his agreement that the government’s actions are illegal.

It’s been a moving and exhausting week

Virginia(Member of the Oxford Meeting)

Hope you can watch this great video of yesterday’s action!

Sacramental Living for Sustainability

Forthcoming talk Friday 13th Sept. 7pm. 43 St Giles Oxford: Mey Hasbrook, of Kalamazoo Friends Meeting USA, will be joining us for our next Friday with Friends on 13th September. Her Meeting has given her a travelling minute and she will engage with us in considering ‘How to Nourish Right Relationships Through Spiritual Roots, Bridging Care of the Earth with that of Human Communities. Mey’s websites are, and Facebook