Award-winning South African choreographer Dada Masilo will stage the UK premiere of her latest work at Brighton Dome on Tues 21 – Weds 22 Feb. Brought to the UK by Dance Consortium, The Sacrifice is inspired by two seminal artistic works – Igor Stravinsky’s monumental score and Pina Bausch’s dance work The Rite of Spring – and promises to be one of the highlights of the 2023 arts calendar.
Soweto-born Masilo has attracted much attention for her retelling of classic stories that speak to Black identity and feminism, fusing different dance forms to create an inimitable choreographic style. Over the past decade her re-interpretations of Carmen, Romeo And Juliet, Swan Lake and Giselle have been critically acclaimed both in South Africa and internationally. For The Sacrifice, she combines the European heritage of The Rite of Spring with the uniquely rhythmic and expressive movements of Tswana, the traditional dance of Botswana often used in storytelling and healing ceremonies. Performed by an all-South African cast of eleven spectacular dancers, at the piece’s heart is Stravinsky’s epic tale of the struggle of the sacrificial victim, danced by Masilo herself.
Masilo sought the advice of elders in her community to ensure the piece remained respectful of her people’s traditions and saying: “I wanted to explore ritual, what sacrifice meant to the Tswana people then and what it means now. Narrative is very important to me. I wanted to create a story that is deeper than a chosen maiden dancing herself to death.”
Masilo last visited Brighton Dome in 2019 to perform her “powerful retelling” (Financial Times) of Giselle, for which she won a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Outstanding Female Modern Performance.
On bringing The Sacrifice tour to the UK and to Brighton, she said: “I’m forever grateful that we can take our work to different people in different countries. It’s also great to talk to different audiences and find out how they feel and what they think the work is about because a lot of the time they will feel something different. I’m especially pleased to have the UK premiere in Brighton. I love it there because I can go to the ocean, I’m an ocean baby.”
Music is integral to The Sacrifice and this is the first time Masilo’s work has been performed to an original score. Masilo herself worked on the composition, which she created with violinist Leroy Mapholo, pianist Nathi Shongwe and opera and gospel choir singer Ann Masina. Mirroring the choreography’s fusion of European influence and traditional Tswana, the piece’s starting point is the complex rhythms of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, but it is firmly rooted in South Africa. Joined by percussionist Mpho Mothiba, the musicians will play live on stage, interacting with the dancers throughout the show to powerful, sometimes humorous, effect, in an exhilarating performance.
Brighton Dome will host the UK premiere of The Sacrifice in partnership with Dance Consortium – bringing the best contemporary dance from across the world to local audiences across the UK. The performance on 21 February will feature a post-show talk with the cast.