Review: Dada Masilo’s Giselle

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Dada Masilo
Dada Masilo

Choreographer Dada Masilo has set the bar extremely high with previous works, and Giselle her latest adaptation of a ballet classic has not disappointed. Masilo has taken the classic story and presented it not just from a new angle, but twisted the storyline too. I have to admit upfront that I am not a big fan of ballet generally, and have seen Giselle in ballet format a few times. The story tends to come across in the ballet productions as a pretty love story. Masilo’s take on the story has not only added an African spin, but also made the story darker and more tragic. The emphasis on revenge rather than forgiveness transforms the story from fairy-tale to one that is more readily believable.

Dada Masilo's Giselle. 26 April 2017, The Dance Factory. Photograph: John Hogg
Dada Masilo’s Giselle.
26 April 2017, The Dance Factory. Photograph: John Hogg

Dada Masilo and her cast own the stage, the powerful choreography and incredible dancing bring the story to life and make the story easy for the audience to understand. Minimal props leave the entire stage open for the dancers who perform to a set consisting entirely of a projected backdrop with artwork by William Kentridge. This backdrop, the odd spoken word, the head wili being portrayed as a sangoma and an impressive score featuring vocals and percussion together with orchestral instruments really contributes to giving this show a truly African feel. Dada Masilo has been described recently as decolonising the classics, and while this may be true, it must be said that Masilo has been portraying these stories in her own way since long before decolonisation took on its current social significance.

Dada Masilo's Giselle. 26 April 2017, The Dance Factory. Photograph: John Hogg
Dada Masilo’s Giselle.
26 April 2017, The Dance Factory. Photograph: John Hogg

I can’t critique the dancing technically, having no real knowledge or understanding of dance, but I can tell you that the dancing was well rehearsed and slick where it needed to be. The most complex of moves appeared effortless and Masilo can be proud of her cast of dancers.

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A highlight of this production for me, is the score, composed by Phillip Miller, it samples the orchestral score by Adolf Adams, infusing it with African voice and percussion. The choreography, Masilo’s interpretation and Miller’s composition combine perfectly to form one of the best dance works I have ever seen.

My advice: SEE IT!

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