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Pearl Lang

LANG, PEARL (1921– ), U.S. dancer. Lang was born to Jacob Lack from Vilna and Frieda (nee Feder) from Pinsk. She studied modern dance with Francis Allis. In 1941 she went to New York to study with Martha *Graham and Louis Horst and shortly thereafter joined the Martha Graham Dance Company, performing from 1941 to 1955. Lang became the premier interpreter of Graham's work and the first to perform Graham's own roles, including "El Penitente," "Appalachian Spring," "Herodiade," and "Clytemnestra." Lang also performed on Broadway in musicals, including Agnes de Mille's One Touch of Venus, Carousel, Michael *Kidd's Finian's Rainbow, and Helen Tamiris' Touch and Go. She formed her own company in 1953. Of her 34 works on Jewish themes, her signature work was Shirah (in 1960), to music by Alan Hovhaness, inspired by Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav's story about a spring flowing from a high mountain to the end of the world. Her first work was Song of Deborah, restaged in 1967 to music of the Israeli Sergiu *Natra for the Batsheva Dance Company. Lang's The Possessed (inspired by the classic Yiddish drama The Dybbuk) was choreographed in 1975 and reset as a film in 1997. Her Dances from the Ballads of Itzik Manger, to music by Jan *Radzynski, Yehudi Wyner, and Dov Seltzer, was created in 1981. Others who have composed for her include Tzevi *Avni ("And Jacob Wrestled with the Angel"); Mordechai *Seter ("Prayers at Midnight"); Aaron *Copland ("Sabbath Song"); and Steve *Reich ("Tehillim").

Lang has set her dances for the Dutch National Ballet, the Batsheva Dance Company, the Repertory Dance Theater of Utah, and the Boston Ballet. In 1975, Lang returned to the Graham Company to dance the title role in Clytemnestra. She continued performing until 1989; she was considered a master teacher of the Graham technique. She also taught at the Yale University School of Drama and was guest teacher in Switzerland, Sweden, and Israel. She received the Guggenheim choreographic fellowship in 1960 and 1969; the Cultural Achievement Award of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture in 1992; and an honorary doctorate of fine arts from the Juilliard School in 1995.


IED; B.N. Cohen-Stratyner, "Lang, Pearl," in: Biographical Dictionary of Dance (1982); J.T. Strasbaugh, "Lang, Pearl," in: P.E. Hyman and D. Dash Moore (eds.), Jewish Women in America, An Historical Encyclopedia (1997).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.