dada cast

The Sacrifice – Dada Masilo

Birmingham Hippodrome


In 1975 world renowned dance artist and choreographer Pina Bausch asked the question; “How would you dance if you knew you were going to die?” Her answer came in the form of a contemporary reimagining of Igor Stravinsky’s infamous 1913 ballet The Rite of Spring.

A little history before we continue . . . In a world where ballet had been all delicate maidens, fairytale worlds and sumptuous scores, at its premiere in Paris The Rite of Spring caused a riot in the theatre, so shocking was its depiction of paganism and human sacrifice.

By today’s standards would the subject matter be seen as quite so controversial? Probably not, but the story has proven to be an enduring one (more thsn 150 versions have been performed) Rites latest iteration, The Sacrifice by Dada Masilo, manages to mine new depths and presents a performance rich in emotional gold.

Inspired by the choreography of Bausch and the complex rhythms of Stravinsky’s score, Masilo combined her own dance training with that of Tswana dance. A dance form that is native to Botswana and part of her own heritage.

Reinterpreting the story as an African tale rather than a European one also meant the music should be culturally accurate, so Masilo commissioned musicians (Leroy Mapholo, Mpho Mothiba and Nathi Shongwe) to write a score that had the intensity of Stravinsky but was unique to the story she wanted to tell. The thrill of seeing the musicians perform the pulsating, haunting and at times heart-breaking music on stage only adds to the overall intensity of the performance.

The company is made up of Masilo herself and eleven dancers. Each of them is unique and  powerful and as expressive as they are athletic. The combination of techniques Masilo has fused together produced some truly beautiful movement. There were several moments I wish I could have pressed pause on the performance just to appreciate the stunning shapes they made for a little longer.

And these dancers can move at speed. So fast and flexible that their limbs are at times a blur. There is even a cheeky bit of fourth wall breaking during the first half where the company berates the musicians for playing so fast “play a nice adagio” suggests Masilo. However that blistering pace soon returns, as inevitable as the titular Sacrifice that we know is coming. And when it does come, it is just as powerful as any other version of Rite could wish to be.

The ending is what really elevates this piece to spine tingling new heights. Subverting the shock and unease of the original Rite of Spring’s ending, Masilo concludes this tale with an emotional gut punch. Combined with the stunning vocals of Ann Masina, it draws from its audience a deep sense of melancholy as it forces us to examine the nature of our relationship with the Earth. It is both tragic and spiritual and utterly moving.

An emotional twist on a classic story The Sacrifice continues its UK tour throughout April and it is truly not one to be missed. To 29-03-23.

Janine Henderson


Interview with Dada Masilo

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