PERTH FESTIVAL REVIEW: DADA MASILO'S GISELLE IS AN UNCONVENTIONAL TAKE ON THE SLAVIC CLASSIC
Giselle is a story about a peasant who dies of a broken heat after discovering that her love is betrothed to another. Giselle’s spirit is summonsed from the ground by spirits and the queen Myrtha. Dada Masilo’s poignant retelling brought His Majesty’s crowds to their feet at this year’s Perth Festival.
In the words of Masilo herself, she was challenged in revising another classic ballet without repeating herself. Masilo sought to elicit themes of love, deceit, betrayal, anger and heartbreak utilising a new vocabulary. Indeed it was dark, sacrificial and somewhat challenging to understand. During the interval a male patron a few rows over asked “why do they hate men so much?”
This version of the ballet provides similar comment on social class, but this time in South Africa with traditional hymns and native speak saturating most scenes. Llewellyn Mnguni’s Queen Myrtha was a compelling character who cast a spell over the entire audience. The character was androgynous and her powerful command of the stage had the audience on the edge of their seat.
The set was sparse, with only a few props to compliment the African-fused ballet in addition to varying levels of dialogue. The use of white powder in the final scene was a symbolic conclusion to a very intense 75 minute production. The collaborative, group sequences were repetitive and the synchronicity was imperfect at times. By way of contrast, the individuals’ technique in both the traditional and African ballet styles could not be flawed. Overall the choreography was a brilliant hybrid of classical ballet, traditional methods of African dance, as well as more generalist contemporary techniques.