Before Beyoncé, this man worked with Shaolin monks

Categories Flash Backs, International
Photo credits: Doris Lee

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui has worked with the biggest names in the dance industry but back in 2013, his Shaolin-inspired dance appeared on the humble Dewan Sri Pinang stage.

Photo credits: HY Wong

George Town Festival has always been ahead of the curve in terms of bringing artistic talents to Malaysia. You can always trust on the names that are a part of the GTF roster to appear a few years later in the headlines.

One such example is Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Although not a well-known name to those outside of the know in Malaysia, GTF brought in his Shaolin-inspired dance masterpiece “Sutra” as a highlight show in 2013.

Photo credits: HY Wong

The piece saw Buddhist Shaolin monks dancing with a lone figure in a jacket, forming patterns with their movements and the sparse but monumental set of wooden crates designed by Antony Gormley. The bodies on stage interact and shift the crates to form a cityscape, a flower and even coffins amongst many other things. All these shapes, left to the audience’s interpretation, were set to the entrancing score of Szymon Brzóska.

Photo Credit: Doris Lee

Fast forward 4 years later and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui has worked with big names from the art, film and music world like Marina Abramovic, Joe Wright and most recently Beyoncé. The latter collaborated with Cherkaoui on her show-stopping 2017 Grammy performance which she performed while pregnant. Hailed as being in a “completely different class from anything else” at the award ceremony, Cherkaoui’s choreography, paired with the visionary singer’s prowess was truly a breathtaking spectacle.

Photo credits: Doris Lee

Sutra was a highlight show at George Town Festival 2013. George Town Festival is one of the major ASEAN arts festivals in Malaysia, organised by Joe Sidek Productions Sdn Bhd.

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Ching Yee Tang

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