Updated: Mar 23
Dada Masilo with Ann Masina, Leroy Mapholo, Tlale Makhene and Nathi Shongwe
Dada Masilo company
The Lowry, Salford
March 21-22, 2023: 1 hr 5 mins
(also Nottingham March 24-25, Hull April 8 and Newcastle April 11-12)
Dada Masilo’s new show is one of a number on the radar this year that pays homage to The Rite of Spring, 110 years after that revolutionary dance work saw the light. Seeta Patel’s interpretation of the work through Indian eyes, for instance, is to tour later in the year.
And Masilo’s work is inspired by Pina Bausch’s 1975 version of the original, we are told – one that’s been revived repeatedly and is considered a classic. That’s a generous acknowledgment, but in reality this is a new work, in both music and choreography, that needs to make no apology for itself.
It’s a brilliant piece, born of African soil, African light and African air, and though there may be an underlying narrative thread about a community seeking renewal and the self-sacrifice of a young girl, it exists in its own right and tells its own story.
Perhaps the most notable parallel with the original Rite of Spring, with its epoch-making Stravinsky score, is that the music is as much its creative and revelatory heart as the dance. The four live performers (also the music’s creators, except Mpho Mothiba takes the place of Tlale Makhene) are on stage throughout, creating amazing and wonderful sounds from simple resources (keyboard, viola, percussion and voice) and former Soweto Gospel Choir and Cape Town opera singer Ann Masina takes a major part in the action – so much so that by the end the work seems as much a kind of single-voice opera as a dance piece.
The ending is a brave and moving stroke. All the open-air, rejoicing, celebratory music from opening – which is so uplifting and filled with the pulsating life of African culture – has gone, and it would have been easy to bring it back for roars of applause at the curtain. But Masilo and her performers give us a long and melodious lament, almost western in its harmonies and piano-sound accompaniment, and leave us there. A sacrifice has been made and we are not to forget it.
The fusion of dance styles from different continents is one of Masilo’s gifts, and for this piece she and the dancers studied Botswana’s own traditional dancing and the rituals it inhabits, called Tswana. It’s learning that is lightly borne, and the overwhelming impression for at least half the show is of rural peace, communal exuberance and fun.
But this is a story of something given up – maybe of a girl growing into adulthood, writ-large – and the tenderness of the slow central duo brings an elegiac feeling that’s a million miles from Stravinsky and Nijinsky (thank goodness).
More info and tickets here