Monday, January 25, 2016

Dada Masilo's Swan Lake Flies in Another Direction

Cast of Masilo's Swan Lake Photo Credit: John Hogg

    The Pittsburgh Dance Council presents DADA MASILO’S SWAN LAKE on Saturday, January 30, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. at the Byham Theater in Downtown Pittsburgh.  Stereotypes are turned on their heads as Masilo opens our eyes to issues of sex, gender and homophobia in a country ravaged by AIDS.  Bursts of Tchaikovsky alongside African rhythms set the tone for a platform where the traditional and the contemporary collide to create a new sense of beauty. "Masilo’s Swan Lake is like no other I’ve seen," published The Star.
    Tickets ($19-$55) may be purchase at the Box Office at Theater Square, 655 Penn Avenue, online at, or by calling (412) 456-6666.  For subscriptions to Pittsburgh Dance Council please call (412) 456-1390 or subscribe online at
    Renowned for her galvanizing interpretations of great classical ballets, the young South African Dada Masilo works alongside 12 electrifying dancers in a caustic adaptation of Swan Lake. Combining classical and African dance, she incarnates with fiery spirit the beautiful Odette, who as a victim of a sorcerer’s curse is turned into a white swan each day at dawn. But in her version, Prince Siegfried falls in love neither with her nor her double. To the great sorrow of his parents, he succumbs to the charms of a decidedly male black swan, an attraction that proves fatal. Homophobia, forced marriages, the legacy of apartheid and the ravages of AIDS are evoked with humor, sensitivity and lucid intelligence in a vigorous work of astounding beauty.
    Dada Masilo’s unconventionality as a choreographer and physicality have garnered critical acclaim for reimagining classic ballet through a South African lens, injecting fresh, new perspectives into the venerated dance form. The presentation contains nudity.
Dada Masilo’s Swan Lake was commissioned by and premiered at the National Arts Festival (South Africa) 2010.

Dada Masilo’s ‘Swan Lake’ Photo Credit: John Hogg 

 From Dancing on Points to Barefoot Dance
    Created in 1877 at the Bolshoi in Moscow and set to the music of Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake is a ballet that has inspired countless versions and performances. It is a ballet that has fascinated Dada Masilo since the age of 11. After taking on Romeo and Juliette as well as Carmen, in 2010 she perfected her fusion of classical and African styles in this revised tale of Siegfried, Odette and Odile. Between arabesques, bare feet striking the floor, clapping hands, swaying hips and voices punctuating the rhythm of the dance, she employs the metaphor of Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality masked behind the impossible love of the original version, and introduces the theme of AIDS at the end of the piece. She thus confronts two major taboos prevalent in her native land.
    She also questions the heritage of the apartheid regime, combining more contemporary sounds with the original score and hijacking the codes of ballet. All the dancers are in tutus, torsos shimmering with sweat, and the lead is a well-built male dancer rather than a slender ballerina.

Swan Lake Photo Credit: John Hogg

About Dada Masilo
    Born in Johannesburg, Dada Masilo is a young South African dancer and choreographer. She made a first appearance at the Anticodes Festival in Brest in March 2011, and at the Fragile Dance Festival at the Bouffes du Nord Theatre in Paris in November 2011 with a solo work The Bitter End of Rosemary where she is questioning Ophelia in Hamlet, acting out the madness of the character with a new form of expression, thus revealing its extreme vulnerability.
    She trained at the Dance Factory in Johannesburg.  Masilo studied for two years in 2005 and 2006 in Brussels at the Performing Arts Research and Training Studios (PARTS) founded by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker.  Very soon she became one of the most renowned choreographers of South Africa where she performed in all festivals, particularly at the Dance Umbrella Festival, and has won several awards.
    She trains young dancers in turn. She frequently gives workshops in the US.  Dada Masilo is an unconventional choreographer and a prodigious dancer. Known for her reworking of classical ballets, she has realized Romeo and Juliet in 2008 and Carmen in 2009.
    The choreography mixes with virtuosity classical and contemporary dance to powerful African influences, combined with an explosive energy and a great humor. Dada’s solo parts are truly amazing.  Swan Lake is a pure moment of exhilarating and intelligent dance which revisits with passion our repertory.

Masilo's Swan Lake Photo Credit: John Hogg

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