Sutra set for Nov. 10 & 11 in rare U.S. performances

The dance-theater work Sutra, a meditation on the Shaolin tradition, comes to Memorial Hall on the final stop of its 2010 worldwide tour.

Choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui created the work, in collaboration with the monks of the Shaolin monastery. In a cultural coup for the Triangle, Sutra’s stop puts UNC in exclusive company — New York City’s Lincoln Center is the only other U.S. venue to host the performance since its 2008 world premiere in London.

Sutra will be performed November 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall. To purchase tickets or for more information, contact Carolina Performing Arts.

This spellbinding work draws from Cherkaoui’s lifelong interest in the philosophy and faith behind the Shaolin monastery, the venerated home of Shaolin kung fu and perhaps the best known Buddhist monastery in the Western world. To create the work, Cherkaoui travelled to the remote temple in the mountains of China’s Henan Province. He spent months living and studying with the monks, and working with them to craft the performance.

The resulting production serves as a meditation on the Shaolin tradition, its relationship with kung fu, and its position in contemporary life. A rare collaboration between one of Europe’s most prominent contemporary choreographers and one of Asia’s oldest orders of martial arts, the work asks important questions of tradition, innovation and cross-cultural exploration.

Seventeen monks from the Shaolin temple will perform, along with Cherkaoui himself. The performance also features a set from renowned British sculptor Antony Gormley, made up of 21 open-sided spruce boxes, which the monks manipulate throughout the performance.