Johannesburg-born dancer and choreographer Dada Masilo — known for fearlessly deconstructing classical ballets — brings her take on Giselle to Milton Keynes Theatre this month.
The production is visiting the new city as part of the Dance Consortium tour, which presents must-see international contemporary dance across the UK.
Masilo, who dances the role of Giselle, has radically reimagined the definitive Romantic era ballet by uprooting it from its European origins and giving it a trailblazing feminist twist.
Set in a South African village, Masilo’s Giselle tells the tale of a peasant girl who is overwhelmed by betrayal and shame when her duplicitous lover deserts her. Rejected by her family and alienated from the village community, Giselle’s heartbreak sends her mad and ultimately kills her.
Still, it’s not long before she is resurrected as a spooky supernatural being, bent on revenge…
The original ballet (which premiered in 1841) portrays Giselle as a naïve victim who falls for the wrong man, loses her mind and dies of a broken heart. In the afterlife, she is initiated into the Wilis — a sisterhood of sorrowful young women who all died of unrequited love before their wedding days. Any man who enters the realm of the ethereal Wilis is forced to dance to his death but, in the end, Giselle still saves her former lover from this fate. The narrative is an ode to the power of love and redemption.
In contrast, Masilo has apparently opted to inject her interpretation with a greater focus on female agency and extreme revenge. So, feminism over fragility and warriors rather than wraiths?
Masilo’s daring choreography fuses ballet with contemporary and traditional Tswana dance styles. This unique movement vocabulary is performed to South African composer Philip Miller’s bespoke score, which pays homage to Adolphe Adam’s music for the original ballet while also incorporating African percussion and voice.
Age guidance: 12+ (contains some partial nudity)
Dada Masilo presents Giselle at Milton Keynes Theatre on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th October 2019.
This preview is also featured on Total MK.
Georgina Butler is a journalist, a dance writer and a dance teacher who specialises in teaching classical ballet. She previews and reviews productions, writes features and interviews people from the world of dance.