schrit_tmacher justDANCE! – Finale in Heerlen
Rage against the dying of the light
The last evening of schrit_tmacher-Festival in Heerlen demonstrates, with Dada Masilo’s “Sacrifice“, the communicative power of a community but also its limitations
review by Rico Stehfest
translated by Karoline Strys
She is a singular phenomenon. This woman is completely with herself. For the Dutch premiere at Theater Heerlen, Dada Masilo takes the entire, open stage for herself. This character, whom she shapes with expressive arm movements, needs no one beside her. This woman will never make herself a victim.
The Soweto-born choreographer, who also dances the title role here, takes „Le Sacre du Printemps“ only as a layer for her „Sacrifice“; Stravinsky is even less than a minor matter here. It is said that she was inspired by Pina Bausch’s „Rite of Spring“. Yet gender construction is not what this is all about. Nor, as Masilo herself puts it, that a woman „simply dances herself to death.“ So what does she make of it?
Intensive connection between musicians and dancers
New in this work is the involvement of three live musicians and a singer. With their own compositions, connected to African roots, including lively improvisation, they are playing anything but marginal figures next to the ensemble of ten dancers. They seem to be responsible for driving the rampant, extremely lively dramaturgy. The dancers openly seek the gaze of the musicians again and again, exchange words with them when they ask for a slower piece in between to be able to take a breath for just a moment. This precisely is no illusion-breaking but instead emphasizes the intrinsic character of this community. It is its core. The togetherness in the group, with the single woman bursting with strength in its midst and at its head, as epicenter and guiding star.
This togetherness does not display in the precision of movement sequences or strict synchronicity. It is the unconditional expression, the inner pressure that is standing for all that comes before death, must come, if life shall not remain unlived. This inevitable disposal of the ego purifies the soul. Consistently, Dada Masilo with her excellent dancers does not build images aiming at visual effects. The effect of this work is not visible. It can only be felt.
As strong as the individual is absorbed in the community, the thing with the sacrifice remains inevitable. It is obvious as much as it is logical that this chosen one does not submit to the circumstances like a sheep. Speaking with the words of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, she rages according to the motto „Do not go gentle into that good night / Rage against the dying of light“. And this is her choice entirely, albeit a consistent one. Her evident self-determination is the motor of her power and her dignity. Only, she did not make the rules. She manages to remain true to herself. Yet her ending remains inevitable. What is lost with her is the heart of the community, the community that just stood by and watched, now all that is left for them is loud complaint.
Quietly, as background, during all this a projection of bare branches and twigs is observing the dancers. Almost imperceptibly, these continue to change, they are becoming stronger, thicker. An increasingly dense ramification. Yet these branches do not produce a single leaf until the end. A process of change without growth, without life. So it will probably not have been the last victim, despite all exemplarism.