Sutra, taken literally is a rope or thread that holds things together. Also a term given to the collection of original thoughts, you find that Sutra stirs your thoughts as you discover and piece together threads within the movement's narrative.
You would be forgiven for thinking that the cast you were watching were fully trained, professional contemporary dancers but in fact, Sutra is performed by warrior monks of the Shaolin Temple. Their movement is based on a belief in the supernatural power of Chan Buddhism and is a major form of expression.
At first we see Ali Thabet in the role that director and choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui originally performed who is with a young monk (aged only 9) sitting with a pile of wooden blocks. What seems like a game of chess, or horizontal Jenga soon replicates in human-sized scale behind them. Within each wooden box is a monk that almost tortoise-like drags around their shelter on their backs. But are these boxes shelter? Are they more like coffins? Did the monks create what looked like IKEA wooden bookshelves or were they indeed bunk-beds that they later occupied? At times the boxes were safety, like barriers and at other times they were dangerous falling dominoes - metaphorical perhaps of God or another force controlling life as if it is just a game.
Even with the simplicity of the white stage space and plain wooden boxes the monks ensure that this visual treat is as powerful a performance and insight into the mind of a monk. Pushing bodies to the limit, falling from heights and literally defying gravity, Sutra is a stunningly expressive and poetic piece that has the ability to make an audience of thousands come away with a unique and individual perspective of the same performance - the narrative, you discover for yourself.