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May 29: Pearl Lang

Lawrence Bush
May 29, 2010

PearlLangModern dancer and choreographer Pearl Lang (Pearl Lack) was born on this date in Chicago in 1921. She was a soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company from 1942 to 1952 and was the first to dance Graham’s own roles in the repertoire, including in “Appalachian Spring” and “Letter to the World.” In 1952, Lang founded the Pearl Lang Dance Theater, for which she ultimately choreographed more than sixty works, thirty-six on Jewish themes, often drawn from hasidic and Yiddish literature. Her choreography, wrote Anna Kisselgoff of the New York Times, was always true “to Graham’s use of movement as a metaphor for an emotional state. . . .There is no movement without emotional resonance in Pearl Lang’s choreography.” Lang’s many students included Pina Bausch and Madonna.
“Lang would enter the room like a glorious, irritated, smoldering diva — which she was — and scream at the class about how they weren’t dancing with enough passion. ‘It is NEVER too much!’” —unnamed obituary writer

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.