Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Tribal themes and exhilarating dance in modern reimagining
When choreographer and dancer Dada Masilo was 12, the South African went to see a performance of Swan Lake performed by Russia's Bolshoi Ballet in her home country and was changed forever.
Exhilarating scenes in a new version of Giselle
Years later, she uses her talent and South African influences to create reinvented modern dance versions of traditional classics.
The latest is Giselle with a new tribal beat-influenced soundtrack, a refreshed shortened length at 70 minutes and a reimagined more vicious ending. I caught it at Birmingham Hippodrome as part of its UK tour, organised with Dance Consortium, where it stays for two days until October 16.
Masilo has taken an already exciting story, rich with action and content, but managed to condense it while also reigniting modern day themes and a new feminist-slanted ending - the dastardly Albrecht gets his come-uppance for seducing and deserting poor Giselle.
Joy and sorrow depicted beautifully in Giselle
Both the dance and music are infused with South African influences and there is a raw energy that brings to the fore real joy along with sorrow and anger at various dances throughout the performance.
The early happy community dances feel romantically seductive, free and vivacious and contrast heavily with the powerfully emotive funeral scene and ferocious anger shown in a satisfying finale with a whip.
Its highlight comes towards the latter part of the production with the fiesty souls of red dress wearing wronged women. Masilo has cleverly adapted the Queen of these supernatural Wilis characters, who dance men to death, into a Zulu Sangoma, or faith healer.
Llewellyn Mnguni is sensational as the Queen of the Wilis
Llewellyn Mnguni as this Queen is hypnotising on stage, shaking and twisting his body and using his long dreadlocks to accentuate some dance moves. He steals the show and adds a suitable amount of menace and fury to this more feministic section.
Masilo not only created this production but also stars in the lead role of Giselle. She has a star quality about her and a clear presence in what she has made a more topical and political version.
Dada Masilo takes centre stage for this production as Giselle
Also making the most of occasional sounds, shouts and words to develop characters and a build up of tension, Masilo has used everything at her disposal to create a meaningful new take on an old classic.
This reinvented very modern version of Giselle is exciting, fresh, raw and so memorable it is likely to become an iconic classic in its own right.