Choreographed by prominent South African dance artist Dada Masilo, a cutting-edge Swan Lake combining African dance and classical ballet makes its Canadian debut at the National Arts Centre Theatre on January 12*. Famous for her unconventional adaptations of traditional ballets, the innovative 30-year-old choreographer and dancer from Johannesburg has taken on one of the most notorious romantic ballets, but also a childhood dream of hers.

“I remember thinking to myself that I would create my own Swan Lake one day. I wanted my version to be more realistic and not a fairy tale”, says Dada Masilo, who altered the narrative by introducing homophobia as one of the main themes. “You grow up and you have to deal with the harsh realities of life and one of those realities is that homophobia is real and rife.”

Living in a country where homosexuality is still a taboo, Dada felt the need to raise awareness and break gender stereotypes by creating androgynous characters, and by having the Prince Siegfried fall in love with a male Odile. Dada Masilo's Swan Lake remake distinguishes itself both through the complex themes she addresses, and through experimentation with movement. Renowned for her bold and distinctive gestural vocabulary, the choreographer balances the upward energy of ballet and the groundedness of African dance to create an unpredictable, edgy and dynamic spectacle with a cast of 14 dancers.

Artist-in-residence at The Dance Factory in Johannesburg, Dada Masilo constantly pushes the art form in a new direction, reinventing techniques as well as testing the limits of her body to reach higher levels of artistic excellence. Dada Masilo has trained in classical ballet as well as contemporary dance and believes it is important to master the technique before breaking the codes.

Swan Lake will be presented on January 12 at 7:30 pm in the Theatre. The performance is 60 minutes with no intermission.

*The performance is sold out, but those still interested should check for last minute returns or exchanges or visit the box office for a limited number of obstructed view seats that are available in person.


Renowned South African dancer-choreographer Dada Masilo captivates audiences worldwide with her unique reinventions of dance classics. Swan Lake features fifteen African dancers in a vibrant, high-energy approach to one of the world’s most popular ballets. Endowing it with fast-paced new life, Masilo retains elements of the original, but also confronts, through a South African eye, serious contemporary issues of sex, gender and homophobia, while adding insightful, intelligent comedy, carnival, and African dance. This cleverly deconstructed Swan Lake is beautifully exuberant, featuring witty narration, selected new music by Steve Reich, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Arvo Pärt, a shimmying and shaking corps de ballet, bare-chested, bare-breasted, barefoot dancers, and men in tutus and on pointe.

NOTE: partial nudity

Dada Masilo grew up in the impoverished neighbourhood of Soweto, South Africa, where she was born in 1985.  She began dancing at the age of 10 with an all-girl group, The Peacemakers, in Meadowlands, Soweto. The group auditioned to participate in a festival at The Dance Factory, which subsequently became Dada’s training ground. She also attended Johannesburg’s National School of the Arts, from which she graduated at 17. After a year as a trainee at Cape Town’s Jazzart Dance Theatre, she was accepted at the Performing Arts Research and Training Studios (P.A.R.T.S.) in Brussels, where she remained for two years. Returning to South Africa late 2006, she began to create work. In 2008, she was awarded the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance. Three commissions from the National Arts Festival resulted in her Romeo and Juliet (2008), Carmen (2009) and Swan Lake (2010). In 2011, she was invited to present a solo work for the Anticodes festival at Le Quartz in Brest, France. The work entitled The Bitter End of Rosemary led to a proposal by Interarts Lausanne to tour her works in Europe. So far, Swan Lake has toured extensively throughout France and also to six cities in Italy including Rome, throughout Switzerland, to Stockholm, Düsseldorf, Innsbruck, Hamburg, Luxembourg amongst others. She has created a dozen choreographies and is the recipient of two awards.


MUSIC: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, René Avenant, Camille Saint-Saëns, Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich*


COSTUME DESIGN: Dada Masilo, Suzette le Sueur

COSTUME CONSTRUCTION: Ann Bailes, Kirsten Bailes



* by arrangement with Hendon Music, Inc., a Boosey & Hawkes company, publisher and copyright owner

Dada Masilo’s Swan Lake was commissioned by and premiered at the National Arts Festival, in Grahamstown (South Africa) in July 2010.


Dada Masilo performs in the Theatre of the National Arts Centre on January 12, 2016, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40, $45, $53 and $61 for adults and $22, $24.50, $28.50 and $32.50 for students (upon presentation of a valid student ID card).

Groups of 10 or more save 15% to 20% off regular ticket prices; to reserve your seats, call 613 947-7000 x634 or e-mail

Tickets are available for purchase:

• In person at the NAC Box Office;

• At all Ticketmaster outlets;

• By telephone from Ticketmaster, 1-888-991-2787 (ARTS); and

• Online through the Ticketmaster link on the NAC’s website (

A service charge applies on all purchases made through Ticketmaster.


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