Nine Things to Know About Dada Masilo’s Giselle


South African choreographer and dancer, Dada Masilo presents her fearless re-imagining of the iconic classic, Giselle at Brighton Dome on Tue 29 & Wed 30 Oct.

The original ballet, which premiered in Paris in 1841, tells the story of innocent peasant girl Giselle who falls in love with the disguised nobleman Albrecht. When she discovers the truth about her lover and that he will never be hers, Giselle is consumed with grief and dies of a broken heart. When a remorseful Albrecht visits Giselle’s grave, he evokes the wrath of the Wilis (the spirits of girls who have been betrayed in love) and they exact a heavy penance.

Here is everything you need to know...

Dada Masilo has reinterpreted classics including Romeo and Juliet, Carmen and Swan Lake which built her an international reputation

Giselle is a fearless exploration of betrayal and revengeIt tells the story of a trusting peasant girl who is thrust into a world of betrayal and shame when her lover rejects her. Spurned by her family and killed by heartbreak, Giselle returns from the grave as a supernatural being bent on revenge.

Dada Masilo looks at ballet from a different perspective

'It’s the challenge of looking at the ballet from a different perspective and dealing with issues that are relevant now […] I’m revisiting the classical ballets to tackle these issues and to start a dialogue with people. To ask ‘what are we doing about this?’

It is set in rural South Africa

'I’ve set it in rural South Africa, so we are dealing with different cultures and traditions. It’s about how people interact, how relationships are formed and the dynamics of those relationships in rural South Africa which is completely different from the world of classical ballet''I am South African - this is where my roots are. My origins and environment infuse my work. I have also studied classical ballet. It’s about allowing the two to merge without losing the essence of the work.'

This performance challenges and breaks down the gender stereotypes in dance

In the original Giselle the Wilis are the spirits of wronged women. In Masilo’s version they are both female and male.

'I love working with androgyny, it creates an interesting dynamic.It’s also about breaking down the gender stereotypes – the notion that men are supposed to do this and women are supposed to do that. In dance, that is the norm. “It seems to me that in ballet the men are basically there to lift and support the women. I think it’s time we find gender equality in dance.'

The works of Dada Masilo are created with the aim of empowering women

'It’s also very good for us to acknowledge that we are strong and powerful - and to use that power to say ‘I’m not going to take that, enough is enough’. Women need to stand up for themselves more. We are living in a world where men tend to rule and we shy away from our own power. As a woman, and having been brought up by very strong women, I want to share this.'

South African composer Phillip Miller composed a new score revisiting some of the original themes by Adolphe Adam, combined with African percussion, rhythm and voice.

The intention of this performance of Giselle is to make ballet accessible

'It is called Giselle but tells a story which everyone can relate without alienating those who are familiar with the ballet'

Dada Masilo is both the choreographer and lead dancer of Giselle

'It is challenging being both choreographer and dancer because I can’t always see everything. Once I have established my intention, I bring in someone I trust to be that outside eye and to give me notes on what I’m doing. I don’t think I could just choreograph - I need to be in it to feel it.'