Dada Masilo – Giselle at Sadler’s Wells
Dada Masilo’s reinterpretation of Giselle breathes new life into the classic, creating an exciting work that is socially relevant, politically up to date, and theatrically innovative. Giselle, danced by Masilo herself, is a poor girl from a small village who falls in love. She is deflowered in a spectacular scene that invokes her ancestors, a band of spirits called the Wilis, who accompany her in her transition to womanhood. Tragically, however, Giselle dies of a broken heart when she discovers that her lover (Lwando Dutyulwa) is already married.
In this reimagining of the classic, not only is the protagonist allowed agency beyond that of the lovestruck victim, but she is also empowered by her love and her act of forgiveness, despite the anger of the Wilis. By combining ballet with traditional African dance, award-winner Masilo breaks the barriers that exist between them as well as between dance and ritual, and indeed theatre and ritual. Masilo’s Wilis are not dainty spirits whose delicate movements pronounce the pain of love and the virtue of fidelity; they are angry ancestors out to exact vengeance for the pain of death by broken heart, whose rhythm and sound echo the complexity of the emotions surrounding love.
This show is not merely about the empowerment of its female lead or of women generally; it is about the empowerment of ballet from the genre of tragedy – created in the service of the elite imagination – to the space of embodied knowing, where feeling shapes the imagination.
Suzette le Sueur’s lighting design leaves the spotlight on a vicious Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis (Llewellyn Mnguni), while the other spirits – here a mix of female and male dancers – actively seek to free the great spirit of the petite Giselle, advising, “Go to heaven my heart, for there is no peace on this earth.”
Featured photo: © Dance Consortium
Dada Masilo – Giselle is at Sadler’s Wells from 4th October until 5th October 2019 and is touring the UK until 2nd November 2019. For further information or to book visit Dance Consortium’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Dada Masilo – Giselle here: