Gunilla Heilborn: This is not a love story

Image credit Stefan Bohlin 2013Image credit Stefan Bohlin 2013

I wanted the rest of the audience to go away, so that I could watch the show alone, with a blanket, curled up on a sofa in the early hours of the morning. This is not a love story had a filmic quality about it and I was unsurprised to find out that Heilborn also makes film. The pace, the space, the rhythm, the scenography appeared to have a depth and calmness I don’t often experience watching dance, utterly unfrenzied. Choreography seemed to have been understood as a process of editing by Heilborn, shaping the performers as characters and offering narrative whilst allowing for the performers to remain untouched by this meaning, to be able to be on their own terms somehow. This could have been a road movie (minus the driving), or a documentary about an undiscovered territory that captures the explorers slowly coming undone in their exposure to the unknown. There was a casual absurdity to the scenes; as in road movies, anything could happen in one scene and it would not be a surprise and then the protagonist would simply drive away, along to the next adventure/mediocrity. Whenever there was collective laughter in the audience, I slipped back to that place that I have spent so much time trying to coax people out of: the feeling of being bewildered by contemporary dance, the feeling of having too limited an intellect to comprehend the wit and the humour in a show, the feeling of missing something.

This, however, was nothing to do with the performance, which seemed to take place behind a screen, very close and very far at the same time, like the voice of a good radio presenter at 4AM on a Tuesday night who speaks from a distance, to everyone and no-one and yet it feels like they are speaking only to you. The sound of their voice vibrating some place between the personal and that of someone providing a service. I was reminded of a line from a novel, about being “caught between the tongue and the taste”. There was a space in this piece. Things happened in this gap, in this in-between, and so everything was oddly predictable at the same time as being delightfully, gently, unexpected and just a little bit sad.

Like the dialogue they said was from Vanishing Point (I wouldn’t know if this is true) that began to sound like an exposition of Schrödinger’s Cat conundrum, the piece operated on the level of stoned conversation, or conversation between people very much at ease with one another and themselves, overheard by someone much less at ease. Or a bit like overhearing someone talking to themselves. Maybe the word that could encapsulate this is ‘awkward’. Awkward in the sense that there were no punchlines and, to me, it felt like there was no trajectory – simply getting into the car and driving. It was a relief not to have to be aware of an endpoint, an impending climax, to sit in the theatre and not feel a growing anticipatory tension. This all happened in the first ten seconds as Viiala and Thelander walked onto the dim stage with the house still lit and then there was a crash of thunder and a flash of lightening. Best opening ever. From then on, conventional drama was over and done with.

I liked the dancing. The dancing just happened, casually – there was no physical “I am dancing now” announcement, as often happens when a performer’s body tenses in anticipation of choreographed motion. A kind of pedestrian virtuosity. I wanted to dance but I wanted to watch their dance more.

This is not a love story possessed a dry exoticism tinged with Americana. I enjoyed this feeling of flickering between landscapes, second (or third?) languages and cultural references. A look at American culture minus the vulgarity. At various moments in the show I was aware of the passage of time (although the clock at the church over the road at The Place does always ensure this in quieter moments) and the performers’ relaxed attitude towards it. I am probably assuming too much but I felt like the work, made over more than year, had been created under good conditions i.e. with time and space, something I feel very aware of a lack of when looking at choreographic briefs or making my own work. As an environment shapes its inhabitants time settled and fluttered and occasionally pounced in this performance.


Choreography & Text: Gunilla Heilborn in collaboration with Johan Thelander & Kristiina Viiala

Dancers: Johan Thelander, Kristiina Viiala

Staging: Gunilla Heilborn

Set & Costume Designer: Katarina Wiklund

Lighting Designer: Mirian Helleday

Music: Kim Hiorthøy

Sound Designer: Johan Adling

Technical Supervision: Lumination


Part of Dance Umbrella 2013