The turbulent South African Dada Masilo presents a scathing version of Swan Lake that features a gay prince, everyone in tutus, mordant humour and strong emotions. This explosive fusion of classical and African dance is a compelling work by a significant artist.
Strong Emotion and Scathing Humour
Renowned for her galvanizing interpretations of great classical ballets, the young South African Dada Masilo makes her sensational debut in Canada with 13 electrifying dancers in a caustic adaptation of Swan Lake. Combining classical and African dance, she incarnates with fiery spirit the beautiful Odette, who as a victim of a sorcerer’s curse is turned into a white swan each day at dawn. But in her version, Prince Siegfried falls in love neither with her nor her double. To the great sorrow of his parents, he succumbs to the charms of a decidedly male black swan, an attraction that proves fatal. Homophobia, forced marriages, the legacy of apartheid and the ravages of AIDS are evoked with humour, sensitivity and lucid intelligence in a vigorous work of astounding beauty.
From Dancing on Points to Barefoot Dance
Created in 1877 at the Bolshoi in Moscow and set to the music of Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake is a ballet that has inspired countless versions and performances of the piece. It is a ballet that has fascinated Dada Masilo since the age of 11. After taking on Romeo and Juliette as well as Carmen, in 2010 she perfected her fusion of classical and African styles in this revised tale of Siegfried, Odette and Odile. Between arabesques, bare feet striking the floor, clapping hands, swaying hips and voices punctuating the rhythm of the dance, she employs the metaphor of Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality masked behind the impossible love of the original version, and introduces the theme of AIDS at the end of the piece. She thus confronts two major taboos prevalent in her native land. She also questions the heritage of the apartheid regime, combining more contemporary sounds with the original score and hijacking the codes of ballet. All the dancers are in tutus, torsos shimmering with sweat, and the lead is a well-built male dancer rather than a slender ballerina.
Dada Masilo grew up in the impoverished neighbourhood of Soweto, where she was born in 1985. She studied classical and contemporary dance in South Africa, followed by two years in Brussels at PARTS, the famous dance school founded by the choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Combining her training with the traditions of African dance, she established a unique signature, captivating audiences with reworkings of major classics from the Western dance repertoire. She founded her own company in 2008 and became a celebrity in South Africa, and soon afterward became a star on the international scene. She has created a dozen choreographies and is the recipient of two awards.
Choregraphy Dada Masilo. Compagny The Dance Factory. Music Tchaïkovsky, Steve Reich, René Avenant, Camille Saint-Saëns, Arvo Pärt. Lighting Design Suzette Le Sueur. Costume Design Dada Masilo Suzette Le Sueur. Costume Confection Ann and Kirsten Bailes. Hats Confection Karabo Legoabe. Stage Manager François Saint-Cyr. Technical Director Interarts Lausanne Emmanuel Journoud. Production The Dance Factory, Suzette Le Sueur and Interarts Lausanne, Chantal and Jean-Luc Larguier. Broadcasting Scènes de la Terre, Martine Dionisio.
Premiere at National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, Afrique du Sud, July 2, 2010.