DANCE – OZ ASIA – Sutra – Dunstan Playhouse – 4.5K

By Belle Dunning

Energetic, fierce and playful. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s critically acclaimed ‘Sutra’ brings to life the daily rituals of 19 Shaolin monks and explores the intersect between East and West. With a stark but simple set (by Antony Gormley) and a subtle orchestral score (by Szymon Brzóska) as their backdrop, the monks’ physical prowess and disciplined movements are given the space to stand out.

Gormley’s set design was an absolute highlight. Nineteen tall wooden boxes — one for each monk — dominate and become the stage upon which the story plays out. The boxes create new possibilities for movement and interaction between the dancers as they are dragged around, and continually recreate the look and feel of the performance for the audience.

The youngest performer, a boy of around 6 years old, brings an element of play and curiosity to the performance, challenging the rigidity and conformity of the set and the monk’s kung fu sequences. 

Unfortunately, on the night of the performance, Cherkaoui was unable to play the principal role, and was substituted by Ali That. This role felt a little artificial and overdone in comparison to the monks’ performance, but that was perhaps the point — to explore the relationship between East and West, highlighting the differences and commonalities, and constantly challenging who was leading and who was following.

Sutra is a beautifully choreographed and put together production, where every detail has been carefully thought out. For a production reaching its 10-year anniversary, its energy and unique artistic voice continue to push it beyond the realm of just ‘dance’, into something much more powerful and memorable.

Kryztoff Rating 4.5K

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