Dada Masilo’s Giselle


Dada Masilo retells a simple tale of love, betrayal, forgiveness and redemption with a 21st century conscience and challenging vigour.

It appears to be a simple tale of love, betrayal, forgiveness and redemption, but multi-layered Giselle – conceived in mid-nineteenth century France, where intellectual discourse was at its height (think Marx, Engels, Mill, and other philosophers of the ‘Enlightenment’) – offers a challenge, and Dada Masilo rises to the task with creative dynamism and imagination.


Philip Miller’s music and Suzette le Suer’s lighting amplifies and accentuates complex notions of love, life and death, but it is Masilo’s performance that strikes with unerring accuracy into the audience’s comfort zone, questioning accepted norms in today’s society.


For Masilo, Giselle is no simple peasant soul mesmerised by disguised charismatic nobleman Albrecht; nor Hilarion, a gamekeeper who knows his place in a rigidly stratified society; nor Myrtha, Queen of evil and vengeance, consumed by hatred. She is a woman who owns herself, apparent when she enters the stage – a tiny body alive with expressive movement; robotic, erratic, exquisite.


Masilo’s bare breasted dance is no gratuitous erotica, it is disturbing and sears the mind as the word ‘abuse’ hovers insistently over her lonely silent death. There was a palpable grief in the audience as Giselle’s mother, with the kind of movement Masilo’s choreography has exemplified, picked her daughter up and carried her off stage.


Albrecht and Hilarion danced and moved to avenge Giselle’s honour, despite neither one seeing each had equal part in Giselle’s demise. Then comes Myrtha, the Sangoma, a traditional African Shaman more bonded to healing. However, with Predator-like plaits, Llewellyn Mnguni shows Albrecht and Hilarion’s abuse has repercussions.


If Masilo is the star performer, which, undoubtedly, she is, then Mnguni makes a worthy companion. He uses his plaits to great effect, swirling them up, down, across and every which way to show the power and dread that will befall Giselle’s betrayal. He leads the Willis, avenging spirits, in whipping abusers to death.


It is here that the rest of the dancers show their equal; their movement, their steps, their limbs and their heads brook no nonsense, as they destruct Albrecht and Hilarion. After the climax, the dancers throw white powder over their heads and leave the stage. The lighting causes them to glow ethereally, symbolising some kind of painful but much needed release. Giselle finally steps over Albrecht’s body, replete with revenge and now ready to move on.


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