Getting Over the Hump with Joyce UNLEASHED: A Conversation with Elina Pirinen

 In Archives, Dd Exclusive

This week the series Joyce UNLEASHED begins at New York Live Arts. Featuring three female choreographers, two world premieres, and one U.S. premiere, at two different venues, the performances will acquaint New York audiences with experimental work made for spaces more intimate than The Joyce Theater. Dd got a chance to ask the many-hatted Elina Pirinen—choreographer, dancer, singer-songwriter-musician, artistic director, and pedagogue (!) currently living in Helsinki—about the inspiration for Personal Symphonic Moment.

Photo by Timo Wright.

Photo by Timo Wright.

{ DIY dancer }: When you began creating this work, did you have Joyce UNLEASHED in mind?

Elina Pirinen: No, it was suppose to be alive only for a period in Helsinki, Finland. And the fact that we are performing it outside of Europe is fascinating for all of us. I can’t thank Laura Diffenderfer enough for her courageous and beautiful support of this work.

{ Dd }: Personal Symphonic Moment is described as an “‘on-stage autopsy’ of Dmitri Shostakovich’s symphony No. 7” that “examines the concept of living within the ‘zeitgeist’”. How would you describe the current zeitgeist?

EP: My responsibility and ethos as an artist is to bring to the stage personas who are broken, weirdly lovable, losers, cute, ambivalent, lonely, sad, surprising, beautiful and openly psychic human beings. I am tired of seeing people on the dance stage who are cool and cold, more controlled and designed images of humans rather than the courageously human, in their every wild color and with complexity.

For us the political aim was to create a piece about what has been going on in our lives, what haunted and besieged us in our times on both a personal and generational level. Then I started to think of a symphony which has the most pompousian, fierce and sentimental musical landscape but is madly and wittily composed.  This symphony, in its four parts, is suited perfectly for my intentions. Shostakovich has been a composer who I have adored since child because of his expressionistic and even rebellious style.

Photo by Timo Wright.

Photo by Timo Wright.

{ Dd }: And why the juxtaposition of your work with Symphony No. 7? I am always intrigued by the ever-misunderstood enigma that is Shostakovich….

EP:  The 7th symphony deals with being a stage artist. There is the political tragedy around and in it and at the same time, the musical parameters are difficult to work with, so this was the perfect challenge for me as a maker. Shostakovich didn’t want this composition to be seen as a war symphony. He even wrote parts of the symphony before the war.

Neither of our approaches are based on war. War sucks. We don’t need to make art about it. Art for me is about the possibility to create fantasmas rather than reality shows. Both pieces are also an apotheosis to humanity because his music and my corporality, visual and textual materials are built to shoot straightly and weirdly to one’s heart and head. So one could say that Personal Symphonic Moment is really two artworks about universal humanity, both personal and social, as seen through the lens of peculiarly horrific and beautiful experiences.

{ Dd }: How do you feel about presenting this work at a festival featuring three women dance makers?

EP: The fact that there are three women presented doesn’t mean I have to be restricted to a feminist lens. I wonder, if there were three men on stage and a man choreographer behind this piece, would it be more neutral piece about humanity? Why, especially in art making, do we still categorize gender like this? I am a feminist and therefore I insist that the art of women should be taken and seen in many ways.

You can catch Personal Symphonic Moment tonight at NYLA at 7:30 p.m.
Click here for tickets.

Stay tuned for our chat with Anna Sperber, next up on the Joyce Unleashed lineup.

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