Challenge and intensity from log-driving times

Hagar Malin Hellkvist Sellén’s earlier works have depicted historical events, people, and through dance, she has given them a body and an identity. With Log driver love she takes on yet another forgotten history. Few young people today know that before timber was transported on trucks, it was hauled by tenacious and courageous men along streams, rivers, and other waterways from the inland forests to the sawmills on the coast. It was tiring and dangerous work that claimed many victims among the non-swimmers who had the misfortune to fall between the logs or were injured when a log-jam was blown up with dynamite.

Hellkvist Sellén depicts the work through three dancers, that with their bodies portray the tough and strenuous, they toil, push, pull and balance with dangerous slips. The stage is surrounded by the audience, sitting close on low wooden benches, so close that every breath, every time a muscle tenses up, every bead of sweat is noticeable. The performance is mostly silent, except for a voice-over, a short melody, and a collective harmonica finale. This forces the audience into the dance trio’s rhythm and breathing, without filter or distractions.

Contributing to the sound of the performance are the dancer’s thigh-high wading boots that squeak and quiver with their increasingly lively movements. The first act starts tentatively to then escalate into a collective rescue operation when the trio takes turns in losing energy for the task at hand. Then the others are there as a support and a lifeline, ready to back them up. The second act is more intense, with jumps on imaginary log rafts and skillful parrying to not end up in the deadly interstices.

It is an unusual work, that demands quite a bit from the audience and even more from the dancers. It is perhaps a little too long and to interrupt a performance with an intermission is never ideal. However, Log driver love is an impressive work that dares to challenge the usual components and executions of dance.

Nancy Bladfält / Västerbottens-Kuriren
November 9, 2019