Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by William Peterson, Senior Lecturer in Drama, Flinders University

Review: Sutra, OzAsia Festival.

Sixteen boxes, open on one side and lined up on stage, start flipping toward the audience – the heart-stopping, thunderous crashing of giant wooden boxes larger than a coffin. A dancer pulls a Shaolin monk from one of the boxes with a long pole, the delicate tension and release between them animating the monk. Suddenly, robe-clad monks fling themselves out from a sea of prone boxes, two at a time.

Children in the audience squeal with delight. We are witnessing magic.

Sutra, presented in its Australian premiere as part of Adelaide’s OzAsia Festival, more than merits the critical acclaim heaped upon it. Touring in its tenth year, this spectacular work features 19 Shaolin monks flying, leaping and moving gracefully and purposefully across the stage along with giant boxes that become dramatic characters in the action.

Read more: Dancing Grandmothers offers a moment of communion

Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s fusion of the choreographic universe of contemporary dance with the kung fu techniques of the famed Shaolin monks is both masterful and unexpected. The 19 monks in Sutra are extraordinary acrobats, and we take great delight as they fly, spin, kick, leap, and somersault across the stage.

Sutra brings a state of grace to the stage OzAsia Festival Many have seen the iconic, famous moves of these monks from China’s famed Shaolin Temple in action films. But here we see those moves — the rapid, virtuouso work with sticks, the fight between two monks with poles topped with shimmering blades, the high kicks and near misses of flying bodies in combat — in a new way. The boxes are equally the stars of the show. Shifted about by the monks from inside and behind, the boxes walk, crawl, slide, fall, moving much like humans. They are repositioned in an endless number of variations, at times with the complexity of a gigantic Rubik’s Cube. Occasionally they border on the terrifying, as, for instance when they fall forward like dominoes, fanning out in two diagonal lines to the very lip of the stage. Cherkaoui, with his fluid gestures and Gumby-like body, offers up a series of gentle, quirky choreographic intrusions into the sometimes frantic world of moving boxes and flying monks. Paired with him in a number of ingenious and occasionally lighthearted interventions was a boy monk, who possessed a cheekiness that clearly charmed the audience. While the boy skillfully imitated the movements of the older monks, he also played the part of a boy with his attention-seeking antics and sense of wonder. Indeed, Cherkaoui and the boy grounded what could have been a serious, technical performance in a world of play. Sutra brings a state of grace to the stage OzAsia Festival Symon Brzóska’s music, which accompanies much of the onstage action, also offers a different way of seeing. His spare and understated score, played by offstage musicians, at times supports a tension line between dancers with the single vibrating string of a violin or a cello. At other moments, the strings give way to a piano melody that ambles like Erik Satie’s so-called “furniture music,” in turn directing the action, responding delicately to movement. Read more: While I Was Waiting captures the tragedy of the Syrian civil war in Damascus In one such moment Cherkaoui and the boy dance together in the box, clinging to the sides, repositioning themselves in an impossibly small space, the boy coming to rest hanging down from the top of the box, bat-like, as Cherokaoui assumes a mediation position below. Sutra brings a state of grace to the stage OzAsia Festival Sutra is work of movement, sound, and light, not colour, and both the walls of Antony Gormley’s set and the functional costumes are in shades of grey, the only contrast being the golden hue of the wooden boxes. Directing our attention is his masterful lighting. This was a work with hundreds of moments when tight illumination is required not just on the stage, but well above it. At one such moment we see the interior of sixteen boxes, each in stacks of four, lined up like coffins along the back of the stage. And in each box is a prone monk, clearly and seemingly miraculously illuminated. In Buddhism, the religious tradition that anchors the spiritual and kinesthetic practices of the Shaolin Monks, sutras are generally short, sacred texts that focus on a particular teaching. They are the collective threads of sacred knowledge. Thus, this work can be seen as a choreographed sequence of threads, a segmented but seamlessly unified work in which every gesture is completed. We are taken in not just by the skills of these monks, but ultimately also their gracefulness. One does not have to be a Buddhist to feel that this collection of choreographed sutras collectively brought us into something that felt like a state of grace. Sutra was staged as part of the OzAsia Festival, Adelaide.

Authors: William Peterson, Senior Lecturer in Drama, Flinders University

Read more http://theconversation.com/sutra-brings-a-state-of-grace-to-the-stage-106337

Writers Wanted

Why Netflix Increased Prices for Australian Customers


Expanding Victoria's police powers without robust, independent oversight is a dangerous idea


New Zealand companies lag behind others in their reporting on climate change, and that's a risk to their reputation


The Conversation


Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Prime Minister National Cabinet Statement

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victoria outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment an...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

5 Essential Tools for Working Remotely in 2020

The average, modern office worker spends 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in a company building. Since the start of COVID, however, many of these companies have allowed workers to work from home due...

News Company - avatar News Company

What happens to all those pallets?

Pallets — they're not something everyday people often give much thought to. But they're an integral part of any business which receives or distributes large quantities of goods. But once the goo...

News Company - avatar News Company

Ten tips for landing a freelance transcription job

Transcription jobs are known to be popular in the field of freelancing. They offer fantastic job opportunities to a lot of people, but there are some scammers who wait to cheat the freelancers. ...

News Company - avatar News Company

News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion