A recurring sacrifice in new guise

A recurring sacrifice in new guise

Michaela Preiner

Foto: ( )


August 2022

Dada Masilo, the South African dancer and choreographer, has made a name for herself in recent years with new interpretations of classical ballets. With "Swanlake", "Carmen" and "Giselle", she set strong, new interpretative scents. With "The Sacrifice", a new arrangement of the "Sacre du Printemps", she wanted to explore what sacrifices we are prepared to make today.

As always, Masilo works with her own ensemble, but this time she does not use Stravinsky’s music for her ballet. Rather, it is three musicians and a singer who create an arc between African musical styles and jazzy sounds with their own compositions. This work was already shown in Vienna in 2021 at the Impuls Dance Festival, but now this year it will be on the stage of the Burgtheater.

Right at the beginning, Masilo herself appears bare-chested to delicate bell ringing, wind noises and a lovely African chant. The young, delicate woman and her choreography stand in contrast to that of her ensemble, which comes on stage shortly afterwards with cheerful dance steps. It is – as soon becomes clear – a kind of village community. They clap and stomp together, but also sing. The solo of one of the dancers is accompanied by a narration, the sad content of which can only be guessed at due to the language barrier. Masilo has studied the musical and dance heritage of Botswana and incorporated these influences into her work. Tlale Makhene, Leroy Mapholo and Nathi Shongwe created a musical framework that ranges from strong rhythms to lyrical vocal passages by Ann Masina and is emotionally expressive. Rhythm instruments, a violin and a keyboard were used.

A universal story is told about fitting into a society, but also about exploitation and even assaults by men who inflict violence on women. As in Sacre du Printemps, the young girl danced by Dada Masilo, who has been outside society from the beginning, loses her life. With long-stemmed, white calla blossoms, she is paid her last respects at the end by the community, which now also appears with bare torsos.

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Photo: John Hogg

The fusion of contemporary dance styles and the Botswana dance influences, the musical setting and arguably the easily graspable story earned Dada Masilo a standing ovation.

Still, the key question remains: In the eyes of the choreographer, what has actually changed in terms of sacrifice in the course of social change during the last century? Are we really still capable of sacrificing young women today, and if so, for what? The final musical tribute is paid to Dada Masilo by Ann Masina. She soothingly lulls the young woman into a deathly sleep without supporting her rebellion and helping her to stay alive. A deeply sad ending that one is probably only prepared to accept in this way in the context of a dance performance with historical references.

This article has been automatically translated by deepl.com.

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