Phil Hopkins, Group Travel Editor & Theatre Correspondent
Hell Hath No Fury Like Dada Masilo!
Dada Masilo’s Giselle takes no prisoners and certainly does not allow the main protagonist to die in a heap, broken-hearted and victim of two-timing Albrecht!
In 90 minutes of dynamic, wonderful dancing, which rips the heart out of the traditional ‘classical’ version of this ballet, Masilo’s South African company brings a refreshing twist to this tale of love, loss and retribution.
Dancing the title role Dada, now 34, has already carved a reputation for herself as a choreographer who pummels ‘classics’ into a new mould. Romeo & Juliet, Carmen and Swan Lake have all been dissected and last night at Bradford’s Alhambra, it was no different.
Traditionally Giselle follows the fortunes of a peasant girl who dies of a broken heart after discovering that her lover is betrothed to another. The Wilis, a group of supernatural women who dance men to death, summon Giselle from her grave and target her lover, Albrecht, for termination, but Giselle’s love frees him from their grasp.
However, Dada was having none of that, preferring to accentuate the rejuvenated, ‘female’ strength of Giselle once she has entered the spirit world. The protagonist becomes the persecutor and revenge the goal, so that in the end Giselle eventually frees herself from purgatory and the leash of mortality, as she steps over her dead lover and walks to spiritual freedom; job done.
This was a powerful, electrifying production – heavily contemporary in its approach, rather than balletic – that was tribal and, interestingly, uses both speech and aural cues, which dance rarely does.
“I introduce speech when dance is not enough,” Dada told her audience in a post-show Q & A, a rare concession from a choreographer.
However, this only served to add strength to the production by adding periodic clarity, albeit fleeting, to the African mysticism that permeated throughout.
When Dada stripped from the waist up, part of a traditional tribal ritual in her home country, it was about laying bare her vulnerability and never, for a minute, did it feel anything other than appropriate.
However, when Michael Clark did something similar many years ago, sitting his semi-naked mother on stage whilst the company danced with toilet seats on their head, I did not feel quite the same!
The sheer speed of last night’s presentation, permeated throughout with vocal cries, left you in no doubt that, at one point, they were definite cues, probably the only way of keeping the break-neck speed of performance in unison!
Llewellyn Mnguni at Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, was a Sangoma – a traditional healer or diviner in South Africa – and he was fantastic; loved him; mesmerising.
Dada has ripped the heart out of this classic but, despite having blood on her hands, the arteries are intact and the monitor is still recording an even beat. Giselle, as a ‘classic’, may be bloodied but the body remains intact and Dada’s final words best sum up her work.
“Is there anything from the classical version that you would like to have kept but were unable to do so,” asked a member of the audience, eager to give her an escape route.
“No!” came the reply.
Well worth going.
Giselle – Dada Masilo
Last performance tonight: 12th October