In between, Sadler’s Wells is hosting South African dancer and choreographer Dada Masilo’s own reworking of this timeless and inspirational ballet.
Masilo’s Giselle follows the barebones of the original story, but differs in two important particulars: when Giselle unravels following the revelation that her lover Albrecht is a noble slumming it for a little fun, the village and her own mother show her no compassion – on the contrary, they pitilessly mock her.
And in Act II the spirit of Giselle affords a repentant Albrecht no forgiveness; on the contrary, he is fated to die and Giselle is eager to administer the coup de grâce.
Masilo likes to adapt the classics, having previously reworked Swan Lake, Carmen and Romeo and Juliet. In doing so, not only did she mix elements of African dance forms in with the ballet steps, but she also made the stories themselves more African.
Masilo’s 2017 Giselle sits well in its new African context. The village, denoted by an impressionistic backdrop depicting shallow water and foliage, is a place where back-breaking work in the fields is undertaken with much banter and laughter.
Giselle is danced by a vivacious Masilo as a boisterous girl; while the tall Lwando Dutyulwa dances Albrecht with suitable aristocratic bearing and balletic grace.
Dada Masilo as Giselle, Lwando Dutyulwa as Albrecht. Photo: Laurent Philippe
For all the lively and attractive dancing of Masilo’s company of 12 – contemporary dance moves seamlessly integrated with the earthbound stomping characteristic of African dance – Act I drags a little and its narrative is not always as clear as it might be.
However, Act II, shorter and more concentrated, is a triumph. The Wilis are now a truly sinister bunch of male and female spirits, dressed not in diaphanous white, but in deep blood-red.
Their leader Myrtha is not longer the Queen of the traditional ballet, but a male ‘sangoma' (Llewellyn Mnguni, compelling), a traditional medicine man, brandishing a fly whisk, his slow hunched movement oozing malice and menace.
Masilo brings in some steps from the original ballet – hints only – mirroring the slight references to Adolphe Adam’s original music in Philip Miller’s bespoke score.
Dada Masilo, Giselle, ensemble. Photo: Laurent Philippe
These Wilis, the spirits of people who were betrayed in life, are vengeful and pitiless: they can only be free if they bring about the deaths of those who wronged them.
So, whereas in the original ballet a forgiving Giselle manages to save Albrecht, here she whips him to death with a terrifyingly realistic bullwhip.
Dada Masilo’s Giselle is a worthwhile and often deeply engaging work. A slight tightening of Act I would make it near perfect.
Age Guidance: 12+
|What||Dada Masilo, Giselle review|
|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|