Friday, February 27, 2009

R.I.P. - Pearl Lang


I was saddened to read this morning of the death of dancer and choreographer, Pearl Lang.

This may be the first time that a New York Times obituary has featured a person whom I personally knew and with whom I had a bit of a working relationship. It was going on 35 years ago that I worked for some months as a sort of assistant to Pearl Lang’s company manager. I did everything from typing up grant proposals, to moving props around, to running out to the deli to buy Pearl some rare roast beef and Jarlsberg cheese, to treat her hypoglycemia. My wife at the time, a beautiful and talented dancer in her own right, was then a member of Pearl’s company. It was with Pearl’s company that I made the trip to Italy which I mentioned here.

In those days, Pearl was in her early fifties, and still dancing beautifully. One season, she returned as a guest artist to the Martha Graham Company to reprise her role as the Bride in Martha’s great piece, Appalachian Spring. My wife was by this time a member of the Graham Company, and I remember accompanying Pearl’s husband, the actor Joseph Wiseman, from backstage to watch Pearl perform that role. Not having tickets for that performance, we watched from behind the rail in standing room. There were tears streaming down Joe’s cheeks as Pearl moved with perfect grace across the stage; and then there were tears streaming down mine. Joseph Wiseman is one of the nicest men I have met in this world. He has been so fortunate to have so long and rewarding a life with his Tiny Dancer. I proved to be not so deserving.

While I was working for Pearl, I was tapped on one occasion to present her with the bouquet of roses on stage at the end of a concert—at the 92nd Street Y, as I remember—an honor that I have never forgotten.

I humbly present her a second one now.