Harkening to ancient Russian-Jewish folklore, Bernstein and Robbins' Dybbuk explores a mystical world of dreadful consequences and enduring passion.
In Central-European Jewish folklore a dybbuk is a spirit, lost, and restless, which enters and persists in the body of living person. The body possessed acts and speaks with the voice and behavior of the dead one. The most famous treatment of this theme is S. Ansky's play, The Dybbuk, renowned in its original Yiddish version and through many subsequent international productions.
The ballet is not a retelling of Ansky's play, but uses it only as a point of departure for a series of related dances concerning rituals and hallucinations which are present int he dark magico-religious ambience of the play and the obsessions of its characters.