Charming character Dada Masilo. Black South African, 36-year-old dancer and choreographer was born in Soweto. Petite, completely shaved head, darting eyes, a concentrate of energy, talent and intelligence.
His is an inextricable cocktail of north and south, of black tradition and white European dance culture. A childhood among the traditions of his country and an education at PARTS the Brussels school. Classic and contemporary are part of his baggage as seen in the highly acclaimed “Swan Lake” where the performers, barefoot, wore tutus and classical steps followed performances of Zulu tradition. He has often collaborated with contemporary artists such as William Kentridge, with whom he created a singular “Giselle”.
When one attends a show of contemporary African dance one asks oneself about the roots, about the choreographic neo-colonialism (the French know a lot about this), about the appropriation of an “other” tradition.
Masilo unties the knot very well in “Sacrifice” her latest acclaimed work in a tour that saw her in Rome Europe, Reggio Emilia and most recently at the Teatro Grande in Brescia.
On stage ten dancers (all black except one to respect the multiraciality of the country) move according to the tradition of the “tswana” dance characterized by steps with which they beat the ground with the soles of the feet, movements of the pelvis independent of the waving of the arms. They wear wide gray skirts and trousers with a red border that when they roll on the ground light up the stage with tongues of fire.
The stage is organized by keeping the group united, or by dividing it into two opposite parts that advance towards each other. In the background, the image of black and white branches that could recall the bushes of the bush.
The music? Not traditional in the strict sense. Neotribal? Afropolitan? Three artists struggling with percussion and violin. Plus a singer, Ann Masina, with a bright but also loving soprano voice. With her oversized bulk she is also a character and this emerges well in the end when, maternal, she embraces Masilo, the chosen one destined for sacrifice.
Because, in his intentions, Masilo claims to have been inspired by Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” of which he had studied a small part in the version of Pina Bausch. Against the light you can also read like this. But “Sacrifice” is powerful and refined and is worth as a thing in itself.