The UK premiere of South African choreographer Dada Masilo’s The Sacrifice, inspired by two seminal works – Igor Stravinsky’s monumental score and Pina Bausch’s dancework The Rite of Spring – promises to be one of the highlights of the early 2023 arts calendar. A 14-venue tour, presented by Dance Consortium, opens at Brighton Dome and is coming to Theatre Royal Plymouth from 28 February – 01 March.
Soweto-born Masilo has attracted much attention for fusing different dance forms and retelling classic stories, so they speak to black identity and feminism. She mines her cultural background to create a choreographic style unlike any other. 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 in healing ceremonies. At the piece’s heart is the epic struggle of the sacrificial victim, danced by Masilo herself.
The Sacrifice questions the evil that humans do to each other and explores the power of community to bring about change. Masilo says: “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.”
The all-South African cast deliver an exhilarating performance. Twelve spectacular dancers hold the stage with their earthy rooted mix of traditional Tswana moves and contemporary dance. The work is performed to an original score composed by violinist Leroy Mapholo, pianist Nathi Shongwe and opera and gospel choir singer Ann Masina who plays a powerful goddess figure. Joined by percussionist Mpho Mothiba, they play live on stage, interacting with the dancers to powerful, sometimes humorous, effect.
The dancers are Dada Masilo, Julia Burnham, Leorate Dibatana, Lwando Dutyulwa, Lehlohonolo Madise, Songezo Mcilizeli, Steven Mokone, Refiloe Mogoge, Thandiwe Mqokeli, Thuso Lobeko, Eutychia Rakaki and Tshepo Zasekhaya. Costumes are by David Hutt with lighting and projections by Suzette le Sueur.
Dance Consortium is a group of 18 large-scale theatres with a mission to bring the best international dance to stages across the UK and Ireland.