‘Sorrow Is the Price You Pay for Love’
Feb 05, 2019
Erlend Eirik Mo
Twelve-year-old Vilde lives in Telemark, Norway, a lush rural region famous for its folk music and dance traditions. She is one of the few young women in the country who performs the halling, a Norwegian solo dance traditionally practiced by young men as a show of virility. It is a physically demanding undertaking, with various challenging acrobatic moves that require strength and agility in equal measure. Although Vilde is the only girl competing in her age group, she is determined to become the national champion. She often practices on wooden beams and riverbanks, springing from rock to rock and running across the fields of her family’s farm.
Vilde’s commitment to the halling is not simply fueled by passion. She believes that if she wins the national championship, she will prolong her ailing grandfather’s life. Erlend E. Mo’s poignant documentary, Dancing for You, observes Vilde’s tender relationship with her grandfather, who was once a halling champion himself. In between vigorous training sessions with her coach, Vilde spends quality time with her grandfather, who helps her come to terms with the nature of loss.
“So much in her story was compelling for me,” Mo told The Atlantic. “It is unique, about a girl doing a male macho dance, and universal, about love and sorrow.”
To capture authentic moments between Vilde and her grandfather, Mo said he often filmed alone, taking up the mantle of director, cinematographer, and sound recordist. “I often do that in my films,” he said. “Scenes that demand special needs from the characters, I always do alone.” That’s because he has fully earned the trust of his subjects, Mo said. “I build a relationship of trust that is holy from our first meeting all the way to a finished film, with all the screenings and publicity. That is the only way I can be given the great gift of magic moments between characters, or with the characters alone.”
“Sometimes you are just very lucky to find people that are radiant, expressive, deeply sympathetic, and moving, both with and without the camera present,” Mo added.
According to Mo, before Vilde participated in Dancing for You, she was bullied for being “a foolish girl doing this silly old-fashioned dance.” After the film was shown nationally—including on Norway’s most popular public TV station—Mo said that the harassment ceased. “She became a hero.”
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Author: Emily Buder
About This Series
A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.