Dada Masilo’s The Sacrifice at Theatre Royal
South African dancer and choreographer Dada Masilo has already made a huge splash in the world of dance with her fresh and exciting re-imaginings of ballet favourites “Swan Lake” and “Giselle”, but this take on Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” offers an even more radical use of African dance traditions to reinterpret a western classic that was itself revolutionary in 1913. Masilo characteristically fuses an intoxicating mixture of dance styles with narrative, expression and interaction between the dancers and the on-stage musicians. In this instance the familiar story line of a girl danced to death in an ancient seasonal rite became a tale of healing self-sacrifice within a society, with movement revealing dramatic responses and relationships to the central character (danced with harsh, fluid beauty by Masilo herself). While the groupings of ensemble dances, pas de deux and solo pieces made formal reference to the performance of western ballet, styles of movement ranged far wider, most characteristically involving the Botswana “tswana” tradition with its light, swift action inspired by the motion of small animals. The four musicians/vocalists provided a totally engaging soundscape intertwined with, and illuminating, the action. The resonant voice and stage presence of opera/jazz/gospel singer Ann Masina crowned this fresh, moving variation on an eternally evocative theme.