Sutra, Sadler’s Wells, London

3.00

 

Monks from China’s Shaolin Temple stand perched on tall wooden boxes. Swaying from side to side, they rock the crates until they fall, leaping free at the last moment. Famous for their warrior skills, in Sutra the monks are both movers and pieces in a puzzle, setting up patterns or standing inside the boxes as they fall like dominoes.

Created in 2008, Sutra is one of the biggest hits produced by Sadler’s Wells. Since the London theatre became a producing house, it’s gone in for big name collaborations between international artists. Sutra, which marks its fifth anniversary with a UK tour, brought together choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, sculptor Antony Gormley and the monks of the Shaolin temple. It’s a spare, thoughtful work, building delicate patterns out of performers and the monumental set.

Gormley is best known for sculptures based on the human body. This time, he created a series of containers for living bodies, plain rectangular boxes. They can be built into wooden mazes or forbidding walls, stacked as shelves that become bunks for the monks. In one scene, upright boxes arranged in concentric circles and tilted, like the petals of an opening flower.

The last box is made of metal. The show starts with a Western man and a child monk perched on top of it, playing with a tiny model of the set. Originally, the man was Cherkaoui himself. At this revival, his role is played by one of his co-choreographers, either Damien Fournier or, at this performance, Ali Thabet. As they move the pieces, monks shift the full-sized boxes behind them. Then both players get drawn into the action.

Like Cherkaoui, Thabet has rumpled hair and beard, with sports clothes and suit jacket, dancing in loose, wriggly moves. The monks are taut and muscular, with shaved heads and neat tunics. Sometimes he conducts them; sometimes they crowd him out, at one point edging him right off a tower of boxes. Sitting behind a plain white gauze, musicians play Szymon Brzóska’s sparse, atmospheric score, with layers of strings and percussion.

Sutra can get lost in its own patterns, or too self-conscious about the image of choreographer as controller, moving people as the pieces in a game. By the time a monk knocks over Thabet’s tidy model, we’ve got the point. It can take a while to set up those intricate patterns, though I suspect the changing mazes look better from upstairs.

At its best, Sutra mixes Zen precision with exhilarating movement. Monks dash between the walls of the mazes, scamper over the top of tilting ramparts, brace themselves inside moving boxes or dash out of the way just in time. Creating the patterns, they become part of them.

Until 6 April. Box office 0844 412 4300. Touring until 18 May. www.danceconsortium.com

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea