Interview with Pearl Lang, March 4, April 3, May 2, and August 23, 1975 and March 13, 1979

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Interview with Pearl Lang, March 4, April 3, May 2, and August 23, 1975 and March 13, 1979
Lang, Pearl, 1921-2009 (Interviewee)
Tobias, Tobi (Interviewer)

Dance Oral History Project

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1975-03-04
Date Created: 1975-04-03
Date Created: 1975-05-02
Date Created: 1975-08-23
Date Created: 1979-03-13
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZT 5-471 (former)
Lang, Pearl, 1921-2009 -- Interviews
Horst, Louis
Graham, Martha
Nureyev, Rudolf, 1938-1993
Pearl Lang Dance Theater
Dance in motion pictures, television, etc
Dance teachers
Oral histories
Bibliographic history: Title supplied by cataloger.
Source characteristics: Sound quality is good.
Venue: Recorded for The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts March 4, April 3, May 2, and August 23, 1975, and March 13, 1979 New York (N.Y.)
Funding: The conservation and cataloging of this recording was made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The support of the National Endowment for the Arts is also gratefully acknowledged.
Physical Description
Audiotape reel
Extent: 3 audiotape reels (approximately 5 hr., 19 min.) : analog, 1.875 ips, half-track, polyester; 5 in.
Streaming file 1, March 4 and April 3, 1975 (approximately one hour and 37 minutes). Pearl Lang speaks with Tobi Tobias about her childhood, family background, and education (in Chicago) including her exposure to art, music, and dance and her study of Yiddish culture and of Judaism; her dance training, including her first classes and studying with Frances Allis; dancing for Ruth Page; Louis Horst and his composition classes; moving to New York to study with Martha Graham and joining her company [Martha Graham Dance Company]; her time in the company; performing in musical comedies on Broadway; her experience performing roles Graham had originated on herself, including in Clytemnestra and Appalachian spring; Graham's choreographic methods including her approach to revivals of her works [March 2 session ends and April 3 session begins]; Lang speaks with Tobias about how her study of Judaism influenced her choice to focus on modern dance; more on Horst's composition classes; Graham technique and its influence on a dancer's learning process; her inclusive view of dance education including how ballet can contribute to modern dance technique; Louis Horst as a person, in particular, his generosity; becoming a dancer and a choreographer as natural choices for her; finding time from her administrative responsibilities for choreographing; the maturation period a work typically requires; editing one's own work; her choreographic process [ends abruptly but continues on streaming file 2]. Streaming file 2, April 3 and May 2, 1975 (approximately one hour and 33 minutes). Pearl Lang continues to speak with Tobi Tobias about her choreographic process including the difficulty of choreographing her own solos; reasons modern dance choreographers typically choreograph on themselves and how this may be changing; reconstructing modern dance works, in particular those of Martha Graham; dance on film and the use of film in reconstructions; the dancers in her company [Pearl Lang Dance Company; later Pearl Lang Dance Theater]; working with Nederlands Dans Theater including her staging of her work Shirah; her views on ballet dancers performing modern dance works and the relatively short time in which dancers learn new works today [end of April 3 session and beginning of May 2 session]; performing, including the many factors that affect a given performance; preparing for a performance; coaching; dance reviews and their often out-sized influence; dance audiences and the pressure to present work with commercial appeal; Lang's intention to continue performing; Graham's work Letter to the world; possible sources of the energetic movement characteristic of Lang's work. Streaming file 3, May 2, 1975 (approximately 16 minutes). Pearl Lang continues to speak with Tobi Tobias about the possible sources of the energetic movement characteristic of her work; choreographing a dramatic work as compared with an abstract work; her analogy of a dancer to a fighter; her frequent use of Judaic material in her work; her love of Yiddish poetry. Streaming file 4, August 23, 1975 (approximately 43 minutes). Pearl Lang speaks about teaching, including as an economic support and as an opportunity to experiment with movement; her teaching methods; her observations on the Graham technique as documented in a film of current Graham dancers; the relationship of her personal life and professional life; her family life including how she and her husband [Joseph Wiseman] support each other's careers; her thoughts on not having had children and her involvement, as a teacher, with young people. Streaming file 5, March 13, 1979 (approximately 48 minutes). [This session was held at Pearl Lang's request upon her review of the transcript of the prior sessions.] Pearl Lang speaks with Tobi Tobias about film and dance, including what can be gained when dance is filmed; her insistence on co-directing the filming of her work; film as a tool for preservation; ballet dancers and modern dance including her thoughts on Antony Tudor's dramatic works; dramatic dance works and stage size; training herself and her dancers for different types of roles; observations on contemporary choreographers including their eclecticism; her reasons for not wanting to choreograph for the Bat-Dor dance company. Streaming file 6, March 13, 1979 (approximately 23 minutes). Pearl Lang continues to speak with Tobi Tobias about the Bat-Dor dance company and its repertoire; reasons that certain subjects are more appropriately expressed with modern dance technique than with ballet; her thoughts on putting ballet dance stars, for example Rudolf Nureyev, in modern dance works; working with Nureyev in El penitente; her thoughts on oral history in dance; more on her teaching dance.
Type of Resource
Sound recording
RLIN/OCLC: 912417054
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b12118274
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): bde024d0-b2a7-0133-150e-60f81dd2b63c
Rights Statement
The copyright and related rights status of this item has been reviewed by The New York Public Library, but we were unable to make a conclusive determination as to the copyright status of the item. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use.

Item timeline of events

  • 1921: Creator Born
  • 1975: Created
  • 2009: Creator Died
  • 2024: Found by you!
  • 2025

MLA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Pearl Lang" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1975.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Pearl Lang" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 30, 2024.

APA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (1975). Interview with Pearl Lang Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (sound recording) Interview with Pearl Lang, (1975)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=May 30, 2024 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Interview with Pearl Lang