Set Work: Sutra (Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, 2008)

Set Work: Sutra (Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, 2008)

  • Sutra, choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui in 2008, is a remarkable dance piece that combines elements of martial arts and contemporary dance.

  • Set in a Buddhist temple, the story revolves around a young monk’s journey of self-discovery and enlightenment. The narrative explores themes of spirituality, culture, and personal growth.

  • The choreography creatively uses 21 wooden boxes to represent the temple space, with dancers manipulating the boxes throughout the performance to alter the stage geography and convey various symbolic meanings.

  • The soundtrack is an integral part of the performance, with an original score by Szymon Brzóska that blends western and eastern musical traditions. The score incorporates a string quartet, creating a harmonious blend of tradition and modernity.

  • The costumes designed by Hussein Chalayan were practical yet symbolic –often colored in shades of saffron, scandal and grey. The simplicity of the costumes allowed the emphasis to be on the movements rather than the visual appeal.

  • The cast consisted of both professional dancers and monks from the Shaolin Temple in China. This diverse ensemble contributed to a unique performance style that fused rigorous martial arts moves with fluid dance sequences.

  • Sutra’s choreographic approach is characterized by fluidity, speed, and precision. Cherkaoui’s style is influenced by various performance traditions including Buddhist kung-fu, contemporary dance, and yoga.

  • Lighting, designed by Adam Carrée, plays a significant role in creating atmosphere and mood. The play of light and shadow on the boxes and dancers enhanced the narrative, adding depth and mystery to the visual spectacle.

  • Social and cultural contexts are important to fully understanding Sutra. It is a fusion of Western contemporary dance and Eastern martial arts, reflecting the increased globalization of arts and the importance of inter-cultural dialogue.

  • Sutra’s reception was largely positive, with dance critics praising its originality, dazzling physicality, and the insightful dialogue it initiated between East and West. It’s important to examine differing critical perspectives and the reasons behind them when engaging critically with the work.

  • Analyze and evaluate the roles of the performance environment, costume, lighting, and sound; consider how these elements contribute to the overall success and impact of ‘Sutra.’

  • Reflect on how ‘Sutra’ highlights and pushes the boundaries of contemporary dance; consider the innovative use of props, the fusion of different performance styles, and how it challenges traditional views on what constitutes dance.