By: Ilona Roesli
“…In a world in which we use terms such as hybridity, multiculturalism, globalisation and world citizenship, the lack of other cultural voices and the dominant presence of the Western canon is striking…”
After Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet and Carmen, the South-African born and bred choreographer Dada Masilo revisits Giselle as well. A reinterpretation of a classic nineteenth century ballet. Masilo’s love for this classical work diffuses in every aspect without making concessions with her South-African take on it. Don’t go if you want to see something pretty and romantic. Go if you want to see something different and new.
With a British colonial wink in the costumes and a South-African healer as leader of the Wilis, Masilo’s interventions are well considered in to every detail of the story. There is great sympathy for the minor characters in Masilo’s Giselle. The narration and whispering are voiced by almost everyone, creating a feeling of community. But it is a merciless community. When Giselle falls in love with the aristocrat Albrecht, but finds out he is already engaged to someone else, she is left with a broken heart to be laughed at.
The music, composed by Philip Miller, is certainly not a public’s best friend. The sullen sounds of a pounding bass evolving into a seemingly never-ending shrill of high notes are worth covering your ears. Masilo’s Giselle is indeed, not pretty and romantic. The choreography, however, combined with Millers music, is gratifying to witness. It is a combination that seeps into your body, in a way that can only be done by generous artists who take great pleasure in doing what they do. And who are not afraid to share it on stage.
In a world in which we use terms such as hybridity, multiculturalism, globalisation and world citizenship, the lack of other cultural voices and the dominant presence of the Western canon is striking. As a consequence, artists such as writers and choreographers, and storytellers in general have revisited these rusty narratives and attempted to reconstruct these into a contemporary framework. The number of literary studies in Black British Women Writing and social-artistic practices that team up artists with immigrants or refugees, for example, have skyrocketed. The social dilemma for the first group, however, is the act of isolating a group of people that you wish to be part of a canon. Social-artistic practices on the other hand have the tendency to elicit responses from the public that have less to do with aesthetics and art, but rather seem to raise more questions concerned with politics and society. Which is a shame.
For Dada Masilo, themes and voices that are missing in the present-day canon, seem to intertwine with her aesthetic and choreographic practice. And she does it organically and, even more important, with great enjoyment.