Pearl Lang's "The Possessed"

Submitted by mt2789 on November 9, 2014 - 9:34pm

Max Tawil

Professor Legutko

Due: 11/9/14

Taste of Yiddish


Pearl Lang’s The Possessed


            In 1975, Pearl Lang (1921-2009) reached the pinnacle of Jewish theatre, attempting and succeeding in choreographing a dance based on An-Sky’s The Dybbuk. At this point in her career, Lang was already an accomplished dancer and choreographer, yet it is her spiritual drive that demonstrates the perfect fit between the two. Over the course of her career, and leading up to this production, Lang directed many works rooted in Jewish culture, such as her Song of Deborah. Moreover, Lang’s style was the perfect fit for the necessary emotional elements demanded by a complex masterpiece such as The Dybbuk. As An-Sky’s original narrative proved, the range of emotions elicited is gut wrenching for both the audience and the actors. Lang’s “ecstatic style of movement and ability to portray passionate feeling are striking”


become all the more important in a work such as The Dybbuk.


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In this photograph, Pearl Lang is seen in character. The innocent, yet disturbed figure is a wonderful representation of Lea in An-Sky’s Dybbuk.



In her article, “The Dybbuk Dances,” Giora Manor supports this claim, that Lang’s style was a natural fit for the dybbuk narrative. One would presume this to be why Lang was able to adhere to An-Sky’s original script (more so than other adaptations, and there have been many, as this assignment clearly demonstrates).


Moreover, Lang’s perspective on dance is eerily similar to the background of the general dybbuk legend. She remarked, “Through ecstatic dance, one is lifted closer to God.”


The literal meaning of the root of the word – ‘dybuk’ – is to cling, which has often been used to represent ones connection and relationship to God. In this narrative, it refers to the spirit possessing the body, thus clinging to it and intertwining their fates. This is a phenomenon wonderfully exemplified in Lang’s performance, as Manor details her own amazement. Thus it is appropriate that Lang’s style, which she views as a means of connecting to God, would incorporate a narrative that perverted the word in a sense.


The 92nd Street Y hosted this groundbreaking performance, further establishing it as a premiere event. This venue is famous for the events and productions it has hosted throughout its illustrious history. More information can be found here.


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The 92nd Street Y, the host venue Lang’s The Possessed in 1975. It continues to serve the Jewish community till today.









Works Cited


Anderson, Jenny & Lattman, Peter. For 92nd St. Y, A Break From Wall St. Worry. The New York Times. 29 November 2011. Print.


Kerrigan, Tom. Photo of Pearl Lang.


Manor, Giora. The Dybbuk Dances.


Strasbaugh, Joan Timmis. Pearl Lang.