When the Bleeding Stops
Lovísa Ósk Gunnarsdóttir
Spoiler alert! The pivotal moment in Lovísa Ósk Gunnarsdóttir’s When the Bleeding Stops comes as a complete surprise. After one woman has entered for a little dance (Ólöf Ingólfsdóttir, whom we’ve already been introduced to), some newcomers join her, and then suddenly the space is flooded with joyously bopping women of all shapes and sizes, though not ages (no youngsters here).
These are local, ‘real’ people, not performers, and their presence induces a rush of emotion that we all recognise, but that women in particular will feel, each in her own way. The piece is a performance-lecture about Gunnarsdóttir’s experience of menopause, and the experiences of other women she contacted to research a subject that remains all too unspoken and unshared.
Gunnarsdóttir is an engaging and very personable presence throughout. I found the work overly ‘documentary’ in format; meanwhile, the post-menopausal women I spoke to later had all sorts of opinions on the matter, and on the piece – and were not shy about sharing them.
The body remembers, but does not always respond to its memories. For a woman, the impact of ageing and all that it holds may feel like an unforeseen storm. As a female dancer, it might hit like a ticking bomb.
Lovísa Ósk Gunnarsdóttir is on stage as we enter the room to the premonitory sound of Tone and I’s Dance Monkey. Standing on a white fluffy carpet, watching people come in, she starts to unfold episodes of her life to date, now 44 years old. She tells us how while growing up, words didn’t come easy to her. Dance came across as her mother tongue.
Through her own experience as a dancer diagnosed with perimenopause, Gunnarsdóttir uncovers the impact of cultural misconceptions and wrong medical diagnoses on our perception of menopause. On a mission to counteract this, she challenged eleven women to celebrate their ageing bodies by recording themselves dancing at home. The projected videos come to life as these women make their entrance to the room, dancing taboo-free and with no commitment whatsoever to perfection.
More than an emotional and intimate narrative on a dancers’ aging journey, When the Bleeding Stops is foremost a refreshing and liberating ode to women.
Lovísa Ósk Gunnarsdóttir has us confidently in the palm of her hand. Warm, familiar, with a twinkle in her eye, she shares her personal experience of menopause and a severe injury, and their impacts on her life.
This could sound turbulent – but it is in fact remarkably uplifting. Gunnarsdóttir weaves her dance herstory, medical herstory and the herstories of her friends into a stirring, and oftentimes comical musing that points towards the magic capabilities of dance.
Projected onto the walls of the space are videos of other women dancing in their homes: for pleasure, to heal, to vent and in celebration. In a truly joyous moment, some of these women appear on stage IRL to dance their dances together.
When the Bleeding Stops is a beautiful reminder of the unmatched power of dance to anchor, soothe and enliven us in life’s most testing times. If there was a place for star ratings here, I would hand over five in a hurry.