Dada Masilo & The Dance Factory
Johannesburg, South Africa
Dada Masilo’s Giselle
choreography: Dada Masilo
music: Philip Miller
drawings: William Kentridge
directorial assistance: David April
lighting design: Suzette le Sueur
costumes: David Hutt of Donker Nag Helder Dag (Act 1), Songezo Mcilizeli & Nonofo Olekeng of Those Two Lifestyle (Act 2)
premiere: DansensHus, Oslo, 2017
Dada Masilo’s “Giselle” has been commissioned by The Joyce Theater’s Stephen & Cathy Weinroth Fund for New Work, the Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College, Lyon Dance Biennale 2018, Sadler’s Wells. Additional commissioning grant: La Batie-Festival in Geneva. Additional funding from the Samro Foundation.
…I aimed to create a work that is not about forgiveness, but about love, deceit, betrayal, anger and heartbreak. I strove to create new movement vocabulary and to push myself in terms of story-telling. In the traditional ballet, there is a clear narrative, but the characters are rather two dimensional. The emphasis is on the steps, rather than on the unique psychologies of the protagonists: Albrecht and Hilarion seem just there to support the female lead, Giselle’s mad scene relies on messy hair… I wanted to go much deeper and most importantly, to create Willis that are really vicious…
Dada Masilo was born and bred in Johannesburg. She began formal training at The Dance Factory at the age of 11. At the age of 19, she was accepted as a student at the Performing Arts Research and Training Studios in Brussels, where she remained for two years. She returned to South Africa and in 2008, was awarded the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance. Three commissions from the National Arts Festival resulted in her “Romeo and Juliet” (2008), “Carmen” (2009) and “Swan Lake” (2010). Since 2012, her works have toured extensively throughout Europe. In 2016, she staged and performed her “Swan Lake” in Ottawa, Montreal, Hannover, Amherst and Pittsburgh, finishing with 6 performances at The Joyce Theater, New York. Subsequently, she was nominated for a Bessie award. Same year, she returned to New York to stage her “Spring” at City Center as part of Fall for Dance, and again 6 months later to create a work at the DC Moore Gallery. In 2017, she premiered her “Giselle” at Dansenshus, Oslo. Since then, it this work was presented at Kuopio (Finland), University of Johannesburg, National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Johannesburg’s Wits 969 Festival, Impulstanz in Vienna, followed by seasons in Geneva, Rome, Ferrara, Reggio Emilia… End of 2017, she also created “Refuse the Hour”, following presentations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Athens, Rome, New York, Perth, Avignon and Vienna; while touring “Swan Lake” in Singapore and across Germany. In 2018, “Giselle” was performed in Hanover, New York (Joyce Theater), Los Angeles (Wallis-Annenberg)…Masilo performs in her own works, together with some of South Africa’s finest dance artists, selected by audition. She is Artist in Residence at The Dance Factory.
The Dance Factory is an organization established in 1992 in Johannesburg, with the primary aim of creating a home for dance. In 1994, it moved from temporary accommodation to a renovated bus repair warehouse, where it now has a large studio and a 220 seat theatre. Based in the city centre, it is accessible to dancers and audiences from town and township. Between 1993 and 2001, The Dance Factory coordinated 9 annual dance festivals for Arts Alive, a project of the City of Johannesburg. These festivals were a platform for a wide range of dance: quality international guests such as Donald Byrd/The Group (New York), Rosas (Brussels), Scapino Ballet (Rotterdam), professional dance companies from across South Africa, tertiary dance programs, community dance groups, youth groups – covering styles ranging from ballet to gumboot, from physical theatre to pantsula. The festivals also offered training to young theatre technicians, many of whom are now stalwarts within the profession. The participation of selected township youth groups brought to The Dance Factory, many highly talented young people. One of them was 11 year old Dada Masilo, with the Sowetobased youth group. At the request of group leaders, The Dance Factory instituted a program of formal training. For a good 10 years, this was primarily funded by the Netherlands Embassy. What began as a once a week project, developed into an intensive 7 days a week program, where up to 60 under 18 received training in ballet and contemporary dance and performed works by South Africa’s best choreographers. The Dance Factory also accessed funding for formal education at the National School of the Arts and other establishments which offered quality academic tuition. On leaving the Performing Arts Research and Training Studios in Brussels, Masilo returned to The Dance Factory, where she became Artist in Residence. As such, she had access to the studio and theatre and received technical and administrative support in order to develop her career.
As the curtain went up, I sat with my arms crossed, knowing I’d hate it.Well … I didn’t hate it. I liked it. A lot!
© Critical Dance
Masilohas blown the dust off, and created fresh characters by injecting a new culture, a bit of humor and some haughtiness… Throughout her career, she has consistently deconstructed classical ballets like “Swan Lake” and “Romeo and Juliet”, and in doing so refined the idea ownership of legacy ballets—European, heteronormative stories with protagonists who are victims of their gender, if human at all. She has stripped them of their genealogy, class, traditional social constructs, the pomp and circumstance, and gone back to the heart of the story: unrequited love..
© Dance Magazine
Masilo’s “Giselle” was everything that makes theatre! Rich in metaphors, meaning and substance…
© Talk of the Town