Review: Dada Masilo’s Giselle. Nottingham Post.

Review for Giselle written by Phil Lowe for Nottingham Post 8th October.

South Africa’s award-winning choreographer Dada Masilo enthrals at Nottingham Theatre Royal with her ‘fearless re-imagining’ of the iconic classic dance work – Giselle. (7-8 October)

Masilo’s Giselle is set in a lively South African village and tells the story of a trusting peasant girl who is thrust into a world of betrayal and shame when her lover rejects her. Spurned by her family and killed by heartbreak, Giselle returns from the grave as a supernatural being, called a Wilis, bent on revenge. A fly-whisk dominates in the second half as a medium for casting and repelling good or evil and whips thrash in actions of punishment. This ain’t your standard telling of the tale Giselle.

The piece is a fusion of ballet, contemporary dance and traditional Tswana dance. It is this fascinating and electric collage that sets the Theatre Royal stage alight. This reinvented Giselle is pure evidence of 34 year old Dada Masilo’s innovation, technical skills and dance passion. Masilo recently stated that she feels it is too dangerous to tour her diverse dance works in Africa because of the nature of their challenging narratives. Much of her work, including Giselle, relates to rape, domestic violence, homosexuality and power struggles in the world. She rejects the idea of her having a dance ‘signature’ because she feels if that were the case she would be just repeating herself over and over in different costumes. Each piece that Dada Masilo choreographs contains innovative dance styles that are freshly invented for each show.

Coming from a South African Tswana people cultural background, Dada Masilo trained in classical ballet and contemporary dance in Soweto and is known for her creative innovation and high speed style. She is joined onstage by her brilliantly talented company of dancers and for this phenomenal dance theatre version of Giselle, South African composer Philip Miller combines voice, classical strings and percussion. Masilo even allows some text in English to clarify the thoughts and actions of the production. In most part this works but is sometimes intrusive. Maybe it would be a wildly interesting dance experiment to be able to see a traditional non speaking version running simultaneously against this one. Masilo’s Giselle is dance frenetic; frequently pushes boundaries; mystifies with its bold and unusual body language and is visually stunning especially in the second, supernaturally influenced, act. It’s universally hybrid nature will certainly ensure a lingering presence in dance lovers souls.


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