Dada Masilo’s Swan Lake, Sadler’s Wells, review


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The Independent Culture

Dada Masilo’s Swan Lake starts as a commentary on the world’s best-known ballet, then spins into its own world. It makes an exuberant opening to the Sadler’s Wells Sampled season, which offers an overview of the dance venue’s work.

Masilo’s company all appear in white “swan” tutus (bodices for the women, bare chests for the men). As they dance, Nicola Haskins acts as MC: the corps de ballet are summed up as “surplus girls in the moonlight”, bounding male dancers do “the virility splits”. It’s wittily timed and danced.

The choreography switches between ballet steps and traditional or contemporary work. Masilo herself plays the Swan Queen, skipping and stamping her way through a solo with sharp attack. A ululating wedding procession looks amazing. Hip shimmies make the bouncing tutu skirts fluff up into puffballs, while the rippling torsos and stamping feet are gorgeously nuanced.

Songezo Mcilizeli’s nervy Prince is reluctant to marry because he already has a male lover, the imposing Llewellyn Mnguni. The wedding scene erupts in comic chaos when Masilo’s Swan Queen confronts her rival. At last all three dance a muscular, meditative trio, coming to terms with how much their world has changed from the fairytale opening.

Until 18 June. Box office 0844 412 4300. Sadler’s Wells Sampled season until 29 June.