STREB troupe comprised of eight aerialists/dancers who couldn’t be more fearless

February 4, 2010

Streb pushes the envelope between dance and acrobatics

by Lewis Whittington
EDGE Contributor
Thursday Feb 4, 2010

Within an hour of arriving in Philly this week, choreographer Elizabeth Streb was calmly orchestrating the industrial assemblage of 14 tons of set apparatus used for the premiere of her 10-part xxxtreme action dance spectacle called Streb: Brave at the Annenberg Center.

Orbit, Air-Launch, Smash, Free Fall and Whizzing Gizmo are just a few of the scary segments in the piece. Streb’s troupe of dancers will otherwise be pushing the envelope to a place where modern dance and extreme action sport converge.

"...If it’s true that watching others move makes our own muscles fire, we’ve had a workout. Streb cooks up a vibrant stew that’s part circus, part sporting event, part theater, part student recital, and part scrupulous time-motion-energy investigation," wrote the Village Voice’s Deborah Jowitt about Whizzing Gizmo last May.

Streb’s company has collaborated with Cirque du Soleil and recently performed in Vancover at the Winter Olympic trials. She keeps upping the ante for her audiences and is writing "longer sentences" choreographically in her singular genre that welds dance and acrobat vocabulary as art and as a spectator sport.

Her troupe is comprised of eight aerialists/dancers who she says "couldn’t be more fearless." What and how they perform is so unique that there are no apprentices or stand - ins. "If someone is down for the count, there is no way safe way to replace them without ongoing rehearsals," Streb said in an interview this week. If it happens they will rearrange the program.

At press time there are still ten segments scheduled for the full premiere of DARE. "We have developed accoutrements and apparatus that take dance in different directions. I don’t like to criticize modern dance, but this is part of my response for those who wouldn’t otherwise come," Streb explains that her company investigates the physics of dance and forms of extreme action for everybody.

"I actually think of this as a variety show," she explained, with a goal of taking dance in new directions.

"The spirit of modern dance from Martha to Isadora trying to enrich movement, leaving ballet and that is what we are trying to do. Naturally, I have a deep respect for acrobats, this isn’t just tricks, it’s a new syntax... with dance."

Streb develops work out of her own experimental lab called SLAM (Streb Lab for Action Mechanics) where they experiment with pushing physical limits of her participants. "I question... all the invisible forces that cause movement to happen," she said. One area that Streb is particularly intrigued with is the movement language of children.

"We mix it up. I know this wouldn’t otherwise be happening in some of the Ivory Towers of the dance world."

She also views what she does as public art, or, as she puts it an "examination of what is public and what is private. Action is a message."

She deploys her dancers to deliver that message with DARE specifically for future dance audiences: "I don’t think there is anything they can’t do. Every one of these pieces they keep taking to the next level. It’s always an adventure of time and space."