dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Classic ballet moves to South Africa
The classical ballet Giselle is given a radical makeover in a new production by South African dancer and choreographer Dada Masilo. The Soweto-born performer whose reinterpretations of other classics including Romeo and Juliet, Carmen and Swan Lake built her an international reputation, says she felt driven to create a new Giselle which comes to Birmingham Hippodrome in October.
She explains: "It's the challenge of looking at the ballet from a different perspective and dealing with issues that are relevant now. I'm revisiting the classical ballets to tackle issues and to start a dialogue with people. To ask 'what are we doing about this?'"
In the original ballet Giselle is a peasant girl who falls in love with Albrecht, a disguised nobleman, and, when she is rejected by him, dies of grief. But Albrecht does not escape punishment as the spirits of other wronged women return to haunt him.
Masilo was keen for her Giselle to be a work which empowers women. "It's very good for us to acknowledge that we are strong and powerful - and to use that power to say 'I'm not going to take that, enough is enough'. Women need to stand up for themselves more," she says. "We are living in a world where men tend to rule and we shy away from our own power. As a woman, and having been brought up by very strong women, I want to share this."
Masilo's Giselle was premiered in Norway two years ago and comes to the UK for the first time. The tour, which takes in London, Nottingham, Bradford, Birmingham, Salford, Milton Keynes, Brighton and Canterbury is presented by Dance Consortium, a group of 20 venues who work together to promote international contemporary dance in the UK.
Masilo has also drawn on her own heritage for the show. "I've set it in rural South Africa so we are dealing with different cultures and traditions," she says. "It's about how people interact, how relationships are formed and the dynamics of those relationships in rural South Africa which is completely different from the world of classical ballet. I did not consciously set out to 'Africanize' Giselle. It is just there. I am South African - this is where my roots are. My origins and environment infuse my work. I have also studied classical ballet. It's about allowing the two to merge without losing the essence of the work."
And in doing so she hopes to reach both traditional ballet lovers and new audiences. "Generally people who have not been exposed to ballet, its codes and mimetic gestures, tend to avoid it. This is also true in South Africa. My aim is to make it accessible. It is called Giselle but tells a story to which everyone can relate without alienating those who are familiar with the ballet."
Dance Consortium presents Dada Masilo Giselle at Birmingham Hippodrome on October 15-16, see www.birminghamhippodrome.com or contact 0844 338 5000 for tickets.