Personal Symphonic Moment
Premiere at Zodiak, Helsinki, 7 November 2013
Concept, choreography: Elina Pirinen
Dancers: Kati Korosuo, Katja Sallinen, Elina Pirinen
Lighting design: Tomi Humalisto
Text: Heidi Väätänen
Music: Shostakovich: Symphony 7 ‘Leningrad’. Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Mariss Jansons (1988)
How does a performance by three dancers merge with, differ from, complement or disagree with an enormous symphonic monolith? After all, Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony has already been interpreted, explained and provided with a note-by-note narrative time and time again. Personal Symphonic Moment by Elina Pirinen embraces the challenge.
Pirinen has a reputation for startling. In this work, it would be easy to be startled by the naughty gestures, but the most startling thing in all this is in fact Pirinen’s personality. Her presence fills the space, and the strength and courage of her movement knows no compromise. Instead of trying to illustrate a classic piece of music, she builds her own world alongside and on top of it. At times at succeeds and at times she fails, but she cannot be ignored.
The performance by Katja Korosuo, Katja Sallinen and Pirinen is a joy to watch. They are deeply immersed in the movement and in the steamy world of their own creation. There is something very introvert about the movement language. Even when communicating, the dancers use each other for performing their own solos.
The symphony lasts almost 80 minutes, creating an arc that allows for plenty of time for development. The audience is allowed to listen to the martial variations of the first movement with nothing more than dim lights and smoke effects that appear gradually. Giving the work a symmetrical shape, Pirinen also leaves the audience alone with the music and the smoke at the ending.
This is not an act of devotion to the music of Shostakovich. The slow movement is overlaid with a sequence of singing, where each dancer in turns sings humorous texts written by Heidi Väätäinen on top of the orchestra. When did you last hear Shostakovich’s sombre, depth-plumbing music performed as a musical?
Pirinen has gone to a lot of trouble to ensure that the movement and action do not conform to the beginnings and endings of the symphony’s movements. Processes often reach across these junctures, making the overall structure flexible and vivid. She also has her movement contrast rhythmically with the music.
At the culmination of the finale, the movement stops and the dancers freeze. It is an impressive moment, perhaps the only one where Shostakovich’s voice is allowed to take centre stage. For the final moments, lighting designer Tomi Humalisto gives us an ambiguous solo for whirling coloured lights. Is it a discount disco or a pathos-laden fireworks display in homage to Shostakovich?
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi