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Shaolin monks on Western dancing steps
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Relaxing Western music, huge wooden boxes and Shaolin monks: the seemingly incompatible elements are being combined into a new dancing performance set to debut in London next month.

"Sutra", the latest production by Flemish-Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, will be on show in the Sadler's Wells Theater from May 27 to 31. The ticket prices range from 10 British pounds (19.70 U.S. dollars) to 35 pounds, he told Xinhua while directing a rehearsal at the Shaolin Temple, in central China's Henan Province, on Sunday.

Cherkaoui takes a completely unconventional method to interpret the martial art by underlining its contemplative spirit, beautiful movements and imitation of animals, rather than violence.

In the creative pantomime, 17 Buddhist Shaolin monks will make movements such as standing in the huge boxes that fall down one by one like dominos. They also jump like frogs.

"I was inspired by the Shaolin understanding of movement, their complete identification with the living beings around them, and that remarkable ability to become the essence of a tiger, crane or snake," Cherkaoui said. "I want to show my audience another layer of kung-fu."

In "Sutra", the 17 Shaolin kung-fu experts will show poetic and thought-provoking images of how human or animal life goes from beginning to the end.

"We wanted to go back to the internal conceits of Chan Buddhism, about the philosophy of emptiness and how energy goes through but is never contained by the body," Cherkaoui added. "We want to show all qualities of kung-fu: relaxation as well as tension."

Hisashi Itoh, the pantomime producer, who called the kung-fu movement "the most beautiful over the past 15 decades", said they approached martial arts from a different perspective because there have been "too much entertainment for Shaolin".

"It should be something of our inner part, rather than just tense movement," he said. Shi Xiaodong, 10, the youngest in the show, said the performance was just like playing a game.

"I don't understand what the pantomime intends to tell, but some of the actions in the performance were part of my routine, such as sitting in meditation."

The show, a joint work of Cherkaoui and famed British sculptor Antony Gormley, who created a constructed environment for the performers, would be part of the Chinese dance season to be held in the theater in May and June.

Established about 1,500 years ago, the Shaolin Temple is famous for combining martial arts with Buddhism and is a popular tourist attraction.

An estimated three million foreigners have studied Shaolin kung-fu in some 50 countries and regions.

(Xinhua News Agency April 14,2008)

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