Swedish choreographer and film maker Gunilla Heilborn’s work ‘This is not a love story’ constructs an almost cinematic approach to dance theatre. The piece, which has been in production since 2010 and first premiered in 2011, features two heroes- Kolwaski and Vera- who are on a ‘delicate search for context and connections’ as they lead the audience on their questioning journey.
The openness of The Riley Theatre, in combination with the empty stage, bar a sign displaying the piece’s title, allows Kolwaski and Vera to drive the narrative created by their words, through the space. It is perhaps this unassuming setting that lays great emphasis on the interchanging use of text, movement and silence, and achieves a sense of realism. Realism achieved through performers’ Kristiina Viiala and Johan Thelander’s authentic quality to both the text and movement; spoken and danced as if they were entirely natural everyday expressions, ‘This is not a love story’ has a subtle casualness that allows the audience to absorb and enjoy without overstraining.
Heilborn, who created the piece in collaboration with the dancers, takes influence from films, ancient explorers and everyday conversations. Drawing inspiration also, from the research and development time spent travelling through Europe, this duet certainly fulfils the idea of a ‘roadmovie dance’. In this respect it is easy to see Heilborn’s film making background, as the structural switching between conceptual ideas is knitted into the piece as if they were scenes edited together. Furthering this, the piece which has been shared at each stage of its creative process, has clearly developed into something of a very concise nature which has been lovingly shaped and moulded by Heilborn, Viiala and Thelander collectively.
In the piece, Kolwaski and Vera’s conversations, both kinaesthetically and verbally, exude a comfortable tone that results in the inquisitive nature of the piece to dominate. From matching floral shirts, to the use of text from the 1971 film ‘Vanishing Point’, Kolwaski and Vera are so in tune with one another that it makes for easy, almost passive observation. Interrupted only by communal bursts of laughter from the mostly student audience, Vera is innately humorous, probing Kolwaski in a variety of topics including, rather wittily, his preference towards whales. Whilst imagery, and gestures form the basis of ‘This is not a Love Story’s’ movement vocabulary, it is punctuated by text and walking, creating such a state of calmness that it appears to relax the audience. Everything hangs on the couple’s often trivial conversations.
The assertion that the piece is ‘not a love story’ results in that the focus of the piece is continually on the world, thoughts and ideas communicated by Kowalski and Vera. Whilst it may be argued that the casual use of dance within the piece, which often consisted of the repetition of phrases and unison, makes ‘This is not a Love Story’ more theatrical and less dance based. I feel, however, that Heilborn strikes a concordant balance between text and movement. The dynamic of Kowalski and Vera’s duet is thought provoking, confident and really forces the audience to ‘enjoy the ride’.