Monday, March 15, 2010

Sutra at Sadler's Wells

Browsing Sadler's Wells 2009-2910 season catalogue last year, I was struck by the imagery in Sutra and convinced that I needed to see it.  Sutra premiered at Sadler's Wells in 2008 to rapturous reviews and returned to the theatre this year (I've also heard from an inside source that it's been sold out at every location it tours).  I usually have an aversion to anything involving "martial arts" or boasting the headline, "featuring monks of the Shaolin Temple" but something about the minimalistic set design (thanks to Turner prize-winning artist Antony Gormley) vaguely reminscent of walking into Muji (sorry, I know how insulting that must be to Gormley) drew me in.  And I was not disappointed.  A beautiful intersection between music and dance, the score was composed by the talented (and quite young) Szymon Brzóska, whose musical influences include Michael Nyman, which is evident throughout the hour-long or so piece and the score is performed live by musicians behind a screen who are lit intermittently by a soft light.  I'm hoping to get my hands on the CD soon. 

The performance itself was breathtaking and I spent most of it with my hand over my mouth open in awe.  More acrobatic and martial arts than dance, the movements of the monks were graceful in their own right and the use of the coffin-sized wood boxes was incredibly clever.  I don't want to give away too much, so check out the clip below.

The wonderful thing about the Sadler's Wells website is that you can see a clip of the show before you book - just a taste and not enough to spoil - but it's enough to either draw you in or let you decide it isn't for you.  Contemporary dance isn't for everyone and as a classically trained ballet dancer I had developed a long-term resistance towards it, but nowadays I gravitate towards performances at Sadler's Wells rather than the Royal Opera House.  I've never seen a performance at Sadler's Wells that didn't blow me away.  I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but it's true.  Last year, I was extremely moved by Akram Khan's Bahok, a fascinating and fantastic exploration of issues of identity, belonging and language/communication, but although Bahok really resonated with me, I must say that the imagination behind the choreography of Sutra was absolutely brilliant.  In fact, that was the word John used to describe the show - and he meant it.

I don't know if tickets are still available, but I urge you to go - it's a privilege to see and enjoy. 

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