Splendid Isolation is the choreographer Jessica Lang’s dance tribute to the marriage between Gustav Mahler, the Composer and Conductor of the Vienna Orchestra, and his wife Alma, who was also a composer. They met, fell in love…and then:
…Gustav and Alma both made music and at the time Gustav didn’t see that it was possible for a wife and husband to both have successful careers, in anything I’m assuming…and he asked her to give up her career as a composer and that is the struggle that we are trying to portray. And the skirt is her career and she’s struggling with it, she’s fighting with it, she wants to take it off, she’s throwing it, but she loves Gustav. So she’s, in the beginning of the relationship, willing to give that up for him. However, as time progress she gets depressed and misses that part of herself…and Gustav eventually lets her.” – Anjelina Sansone, dancer
What does it mean to ask someone to give up a part of themselves for a relationship? What does it mean to agree to do so? What does love mean in the context of such a request? What does love mean in the context of refusing to give up any part of oneself? And, if one does gives up an essential part of themselves, is love even possible?
Is asking someone to give up an essential part of themselves loving? Is refusing selfish? Or is fulfilling one’s talent and “gifting” it to one’s beloved a purer, less selfish form of love than possibly giving up something that begs to be manifested?
In a relationship – any relationship, not just a love relationship – are we meant to witness, to nurture, to encourage, to champion, the other, even though the threat may be there underneath the surface that there is an implicit separateness in that gift? Is it an augmentation? An enhancement? Or is it a diminishment? A giving up?
I’ve spent my entire life in various aspects of the art world, first in dance, then in theatre, then as a designer and writer and I have had this conversation with every single creative woman I have ever met. I don’t know one woman who hasn’t struggled with it, including me…I struggle with it continually. And it is a struggle that seems to hold just as true for women in business – the dilemma of wanting to love, to be married, to have children…but also to work and fulfill some separate part of oneself that is unique, personal and often difficult if not impossible to describe to anyone else.
“I think pieces like this are the reason I fell in love with dance. I, I think that the challenge for me, and what I love most, is adapting to a character that is a little bit myself, and a little bit somebody else that is either real or not real.” – Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye, dancer
I wish I could post the entire Splendid Isolation dance (the title is rather perfect for the subject it describes in movement). I’ve seen many excerpts of it – on Vimeo, on YouTube, but it is a current one and not available, sadly, in its entirely, at least that I can find, otherwise I would share it with you.
Quite aside from my love of dance, this particular choreographer and this particular danced interpretation of the relationship between Gustav and Alma Mahler resonated with me because years ago I stayed in a Bed & Breadfast in Venice called Oltre il Giardino, which was Alma Mahler’s house after Gustav died. She lived there in the 1920s and I could feel her there, walking through the streets of Venice, along the canals, composing music in her head. Venice is a very musical city.
And now they are gone. But their story is very much relatable. And the talented Jessica Lang has given it a choreographer’s voice.
Movement is music.
You may see more of this thoughtful and lovely choreograher’s work at: http://www.jessicalangdance.com/.