Sutra Dance Company, Tel Aviv Dance, TAPAC, October 4
By ORA BRAFMAN
On a visit to the Orient, Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui was introduced to the monks of the Buddhist Shaolin monastery in China, cradle of its unique branch of kung fu and other martial arts that are taught as part of their spiritual training.The encounter resulted in a hybrid dance that attempted to transcend the technical brilliance of the monks through the inquisitive mind of one of Europe’s leading talents of contemporary dance.This is Cherkaoui’s first and long-awaited visit to Israel, and Sutra, with all its acrobatic allure, is not a typical work of his. His fascination with the exoticism of Oriental aesthetic and cultural codes is responsible for his giving too much priority to the Shaolins’ spectacular technique. Granted, flying monks and mid-air twirls, “crazy monkey” or “lazy scorpion” routines, along with the amazing 10-year-old novice who flips over backwards like a busy cricket, ensure a remarkably attractive show. But Cherkaoui aimed higher.He avoided the urge to turn them into dancers and avoided the urge to try to adopt their moves, hence his own unique qualities as a participating dancer remain intact.Sculptor Antony Gormely designed a highly versatile stage stacked with 20 mansize boxes that could be moved, piled or trundled like giant toy blocks. Upright, they were cubist forest or cliffs; next, they could be a boat, a coffin or stacked like a library wall.In the end, the performance was too much of a tribute to the kung fu wizards and too little attention to Sidi Larbi’s artistic quest.After all, their acrobatic technique in itself has limited appeal, like a tourist’s entertainment act out of its cultural context.
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