Di Alkistis

DARK DANCE: Eros, Illness and the Sacred

Butô – dark dance – belongs to the antinomian anti-tradition of dance (or anti-dance, as it has been called) that descends from Nietzsche. I begin this talk considering dance after Nietzsche – tracing the return of the archaic gods in Isadora Duncan’s unrestricted Hellenism and Nijinsky’s Faun and Rite of Spring, to the ecstatic dances of Mary Wigman and Anita Berber’s provocative eroticism. With butô’s first steps in the Japanese underground, Hijikata Tatsumi initiated a radical reappraisal of the body, drawing inspiration from this western anti-tradition and from his upbringing in the remote region of Tôhoku, inhabited by rice farmers and kami. Through his dances and writings, a convergence of eros, illness and the sacred emerges, themes which obsess and inform my own dance practice. Expanding on the potent creative tensions at play in the carnal body between illness, eroticism and the sacred in pursuit of an antinomian dance, I will close with my ‘testimony of a headless dancer’, a call for a return to the occulted and carnal body as the source of renewal and living gnosis.


I am an artist, dancer-choreographer, writer and occultist exploring the mysteries of the carnal body and its subtle anatomy through an archaeology and poietics of flesh. My art and praxis is grounded in ankoku butô (dark dance), which I have practised since 2002. I have studied multiple movement, performance and healing modalities, and have, through synthesis and experiment, developed a techne of transformation, of communion-communication with spirit(s), which is fundamental to both my artistic and magical work. Central to this work and to my spiritual path is the emergence of the heretical feminine divine power Babalon, and the cultivation of the sexual and erotic energies characteristic of her manifestion.

With Peter Grey I co-founded and run Scarlet Imprint, a small press which publishes practitioner-oriented works on magic, esotericism and the sacred. As a designer and typographer, I seek to manifest the spirit of the book in material form, understanding that knowledge is communicated through all the senses.
I have performed, given workshops and spoken on my practice at events, conferences and research seminars in the UK, Europe and the United States. Selected works from 2008 to 2018 are published in The Brazen Vessel (Scarlet Imprint 2019).