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Swan Lake by Dada Masilo. The Dance Factory, Newtown, Johannesburg 06Sep2012 Photograph:John Hogg

Review: Reimagined Swan Lake wows NAC audience

By Alejandro Bustos on January 13, 2016

I have a soft spot for artists who break the rules, which likely explains why I fell in love this week with South African choreographer Dada Masilo.

During a one-night only performance at the National Arts Centre on Tuesday, January 12, Masilo’s captivating re-telling of the famous ballet Swan Lake enthralled the audience.

In this take of the classic story, Prince Siegfried falls in love with a male Odile, the black swan, leading him to reject the female Odette, the white swan. Shocked by this development, Siegfried’s parents and contemporaries angrily lash out at Siegfried.

The true love of the two men, however, put to shame this rejection. The sexual role reversal also sets the stage for many other intriguing elements in this excellent production.

For instance, from a technical standpoint, watching a male dancer play the role of Odile was breathtaking.

In traditional ballet tutus are for women and men never dance on the tip of their toes. Cue Dada Masilo who proves that these rules are meant to broken.

With a gorgeous grace, the male Odile not only danced on his toes (imagine the practice that it took to do that with the weight of a male body) but also exhibited an elegance that would rival any strong ballerina.

Similarly, the other men in the dance production wore tutus, while the wonderful choreography combined classical ballet with elements of traditional African dance.

But there is more. In the early part of the show, a narrator came on stage and interacted with the dancers in an ingenious manner. Reminding me a bit of the comedians Penn and Teller, whose act broke all the rules of magic shows, the narrator explained how ballets often follow a traditional format, thereby setting the stage for a performance of ground-breaking brilliance.

This is a performance that I will not forget and, like all great art, got my mind reeling with a flood of ideas. In short, this was a great show that deserves to be applauded.

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