Dance Review







Sidi Larbai Cherkaoui/ Antony Gormley with Monks from the Shaolin Temple





by Sidi Larbai Cherkaoui

Sadler’s Wells

28 – 31 May, 2008






1ary Couzen

A review by Allan Taylor for EXTRA! EXTRA!


With sixteen Shaolin Monks, one Sidi and one little boy, Sutra appears before our eyes as a combination between Shaolin kung fu (by monks from the Shaolin Temple; a Buddhist temple in the Henan province of China) and contemporary dance. Played to a soundtrack of sometimes sparse, sometimes full and dramatic classical compositions, Sutra makes interesting use of space (visualised with artist Anthony Gormley) combined with a novel perspective on kung fu choreography.

Using sixteen boxes made out of wood and one silver box as its only props and setting, the mastery of visualisation between Gormley and Cherkaoui really comes to the fore. The difference in shapes (from stacking the boxes into 16 compartments in which they lay down in, lining them up and running across the top and knocking them down like a row of dominoes) shows the creativity of thought and complexity of balance and form struck by this perfect pairing.

Szymon Brzoska is the composer of this piece and manages to construct the right score that seems to, at times, barely be there, while at others, providing the rousing and driving lift needed for the moments of heightened tension. Only six musicians provide the full arrangement of the piece, but use their timbre to full effect.

Interestingly enough, Cherkaoui himself appears throughout, and provides a comic contrast to the serious and beautiful moves of the Shaolin art. At one point they disappear into their boxes and reappear wearing black suits. A comment, perhaps, on the domination of Western metropolises, but which totally brought on a ‘how did they do that’ moment. Cherkaoui manages to inspire awe with his simplicity.

In contrast to his last piece, Myth, Sutra is a more controlled and precise affair, from the movement to the music. It serves as a great example of his work, and is a result of his hard work with a very hidden and specific art-form. The Shaolin monks are the only people trained in this particular martial art and it is the only one to be associated with a temple. Revealing the unknown, it manages to include beauty and simplicity in form, structure and movement.

An amazing contradiction, with the calm juxtaposed with spectacle. Not the kind of piece you go to for high jumping, low kicking kung fu action, but more to contemplate the ways in which its beauty, mastery and sparseness can be complex - a definite winner for the beginner to the fanatic.


Sutra is playing until the 31st of May

Performances 7.30pm

Tickets £10-£35
For more information call 0844 412 4300




Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved