Departures and Arrivals



Personal Symphonic Moment - interview with Elina Pirinen
Rita Natálio

Elina Pirinen calls her "Personal Symphonic Moment" an ‘autopsy’ of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony: a simultaneously exact and distorted, creative and destructive, faithful and unfaithful approach to the symphonic work. The piece will be presented in Tanz Im August from August 13th to August 15th with HAU support through DNA network



1. “Personal Symphonic Moment” creates a relationship with Dimitri Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony. Why did you chose this musical frame? And how did the choreographic proposal appeared?

In “Personal Symphonic Moment” I wanted to deal with a big structure and use it as dramaturgical guideline/frame. In order to develop my practice I chose to have ”a companion” with whom I could work with and against it. It felt natural to choose a classical music piece because I had studied classical music for a long time. The 7th symphony was divided in 4 parts and suited perfectly my intentions, it had a fierce and sentimental musical structure and at the same time it was madly composed. It suited my need to show primitivism and affection on stage instead of classical reason and control.

2. The musical piece is known as "Leningrad". Do you see any political connection in your work to it?

Shostakovich is a composer who I love since I was a child because of his expressionist and even rebellious style. Particularly the 7th symphony has a lot of complexity to work with: its political tragedy and its musical parameters are very demanding to work with, it was challenging for me as a maker. But it was important to know that Shostakovich himself didn’t want his composition to be seen as a “war symphony”. Some parts of the symphony were even composed before the war. Therefore, our choreographic approach is not based in “war”. And, personally, I don’t think we need to make art for war. War sucks. In the piece we also repeat that “war sucks”. Actually one of the performers/characters explains her failure to write a body phenomenological essay about war because she feels hypocrite.

3. What kind of presence did you want to create? Tell us more about your ideas about "personal moment" and “inner self”, expressions which are both used in the synopsis of the work.

We found the politic dimension of the work in our lives, in what was haunting us in present times at a personal and generational level. Through these dimensions, we created corporal, textual and visual material. Also, our body practice was based in each performer’s anatomical structure.This created on stage figures who are broken, weirdly lovable, ambivalent, lonely, sad, surprising, enjoying their way of being, often very beautiful and psychologically open human beings. I must say that I am tired of seeing people on stage who are cool and cold, controlled images of people rather than presenting humanity and psyche courageously in its multicolored complexity.

4.The fact that the piece is done by 3 women brings a background about primitive symbolism attached to women: hysteria, exaggeration and toxic sexuality, etc. Can you comment on this?

The fact that there are three women on stage doesn’t mean we should analyze the piece through feminist lenses. If there were three men on stage and a male choreographer behind the scene, would it then be a more neutral piece about humanity? Do we still need to categorize gender like this? I am a feminist and therefore I think that art proposed by women should be perceived in many ways. Shostakovich’s symphony (like he wanted it to be perceived), and our “Personal Symphonic Moment” (like we want it to be perceived), are two pieces about universal humanity, presenting both horrifying images and beautiful experiences at a personal and social level.