After their stunning re-imagining of Giselle in 2019, South Africa’s award-winning Dada Masilo and her company of dancers have returned this year with a UK tour premiering The Sacrifice. This enthralling display teeters from picturesque to poignant in a narrative that explores the ritual of sacrifice for the people of Tswana, which is accompanied by dance choreography that is second to none, bursting with personality and originality.

In front of a gloomy backdrop of dark branches, Masilo began the story with a solo routine that saw her meticulously sway her arms and hands in delicate yet equally expressive movements, all whilst being synchronised with, and using infrequent stomps with her feet to add to, the tempo of the music.

Her ensemble later joined the stage. Their presence was just as electric as the lead dancer Masilo, and they emphasised this by displaying a routine brimming with joy and affection. The unique patterns of claps and chants made you feel as though you were in their country, a part of their culture.

Image taken by Rais Esat
Dada Masilo and her company of performers received a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd (Image: Rais Esat)

But The Sacrifice is not a journey that knows only happiness. The narrative transitions into a saddening depiction of the healing from the ritual of the sacrifice, and the pain that comes with it. Masilo’s character descends into a state of vulnerability. Surrounded by her male counterparts, she is forced to accept her leave into the next world with a struggling reluctance, which elevates the emotional impact of the ensemble’s transformed dance routine.

However, the most galvanising aspect of this tear-jerking showcase, that made the crowd give a lengthy standing ovation at the end of it, was, without a doubt, the live stage music.

Image taken by Rais Esat
Dada Masilo spoke in a Q&A after performing The Sacrifice at The Lowry (Image: Rais Esat)

It was the first time ever that Masilo and her crew had the original score of the performance played live. The musicians played instruments like the piano, violin and, particularly, South African instruments of the Botswana natives, which emulated various sounds to complement the overall narrative.

From morning birds tweeting and wind blowing to chilling ambient noise and the chants of the Tswana people, the scintillating melodies they created meant you couldn’t help but glance over to the side of the stage where they were sat, despite the dancers already captivating you enough in the centre. You could easily surmise that the score was inspired by Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring without knowing so prior.

A sonically passionate powerhouse of a voice from singer Ann Masina filled the room with a sense of grief and sorrow, as the show rounds off beautifully in a moment that reduced the person next to me to sniffles.

Dada Masilo and Dance Consortium have presented a mastery in story-telling with The Sacrifice. Whilst its narrative is mesmerising, its dance choreography and score enhance the experience to an unknown level. A must-see for people who love everything theatre has to offer, The Sacrifice is, quite simply, deserving of its high worldwide praise.

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