Next Soweto-born Dada Masilo turned her attentions to Giselle (2017). You can see how the ultimate Romantic tale of deceit and redemption would appeal to Masilo, whose previous works have addressed a series of thorny social issues.
Dada Masilo trained in ballet and contemporary dance, and is also fluent in the moves of South Africa’s traditional Tswana dance. All these she combines in Giselle, a vibrant dance piece full of intricate footwork and forceful arms.
Dada Masilo’s Giselle keeps the barebones of the story, but transposes it to an African context. Giselle (danced by Masilo herself) is a boisterous peasant girl, who is loved by the villager Hilarion, but spurns him in favour of Albrecht, an aristocrat who’s disguised himself as a peasant so he can have a little pre-marital fun.
This Albrecht is a lot less conflicted than the one of the original ballet; when his deception is uncovered, he abandons Giselle with no sign of remorse or regret.
And whereas in the original the entire village and her mother rush to console the broken-hearted Giselle, in Masilo’s version everybody mocks and humiliates her, which eventually leads her madness and death.
The real twist in the tale, though, comes in the second part, where Giselle joins the Wilis, here spirits of both men and women who were betrayed in life. The vengeful Queen of the Wilis becomes a sangoma, or traditional medicine man; and the requirement is for each Wili to find freedom by killing her or his betrayer.
Unlike in the Romantic ballet, here redemption comes to Giselle, not Albrecht.
Dada Masilo’s Giselle is danced on a bare stage, with changes of lighting and costume providing the sole settings for the various scenes.
In a small ensemble of 12, many of the dancers double up in various roles. The score, by the South African composer Philip Miller, makes slight references to Adolf Adams’ original, but it’s primarily based on African music.
Dada Masilo’s Giselle is one of three versions of the ballet to be seen at Sadler’s Wells in close succession this autumn. You can opt for this one, Akram Khan’s magisterial remake for English National Ballet, or the unadulterated Romantic original by Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Age Guidance: 12+
|What||Dada Masilo, Giselle, Sadler's Wells|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
04 Oct 19 – 05 Oct 19, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour 10 mins no interval
|Price||£15-£45 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book|