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November 12, 2009

Considered neither modern nor contemporary dance, but more circus or rodeo with a dash of extreme sports and Hollywood-esque stunt-work, the STREB company dancers are known to perform petrifying feats of body contortion and athleticism with innovatively designed apparatuses. What do they call themselves? Action architects.

streb dance gizmo

Forcing me to squirm and yelp and half-cover my eyes in incredulity, the STREB dancers performed BRAVE, an "extreme action dance show" at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Arts on October 24.

Perhaps the most blood-curdling piece involved three dancers clutching three cinder bricks attached to strings from the ceiling and swinging them across the dance stage. In between the periods of these swinging concussions waiting to happen, dancer after dancer leapt across the floor and landed flat on their stomachs, eliciting a violent pancake smack each time. Sharp intakes of breath could be heard throughout the entire audience.

streb dance cinderbrick

Other hair-raising pieces included contortions in a metal cage-like apparatus, and the gravity-defying acrobatics in Whizzing Gizmo (lead photo above).

Elizabeth Streb, the founder and choreographer, established STREB in 1985 and is widely known for her experimentation and muscle-and-motion vocabulary. (You can even see her spatial thought processes in her sketchbook.) Now, in their space in Brooklyn, she runs SLAM (STREB Lab for Action Mechanics) as well, where the door is always open for the public to come, watch rehearsals, and take classes. Today, they have a far-flung schedule from Phoenix to Davis to Chapel Hill, and you can check out their tour or the video below if you’d like to experience the space-shifting, wince-evoking, human-body-crashing phenomenon for yourself.


Photos courtesy of Ashmont Media

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