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Elizabeth Streb on Fear (Plus, Watch Her Company in Action)
A STREB Extreme Action show is nothing like a typical dance performance. Instead, it's a full-on battle between gravity and humans. There will be risk-taking, you will probably gasp (multiple times) and you might even clench your jaw. That's because artistic director Elizabeth Streb likes to push her
dancers action heros to the max. What exactly are we capable of? How much further can we go? She's out to answer those questions.
A recent episode of "Articulate," a nationally syndicated show on PBS, peeked inside the troupe's rehearsals and sat down with Streb for an honest conversation. While she was speaking specifically about her own work, her words apply to any dancer who wants to push themselves and grow as an artist. Here are some of our favorite quotes from the episode:
1. "You can't hedge your bets." If you hesitate before making a move, you could literally be putting yourself in danger.
2. "There are no real soloists." Teamwork is tantamount in Streb's company, because together the group creates a mystifying image—or an illusion—for the audience.
STREB members on their spinning ladder. Photo by Tom Caravaglia, Courtesy STREB.
3. "Failure of flight is the most exciting moment." Though Streb's action heros leap and fly through space, she says that the crashes are where the potential for intriguing content lies.
4. According to company member Cassandre Joseph, Streb "really appreciates massive dancers," as in bodies that can withstand the force and shock of stunts like falling repeatedly.
Photo by Antoine Douaihy, Tom Caravaglia Studios, Courtesy STREB
5. "[Fear] is a messaging system that we have more work to do before we try something." Streb views fear as a positive indicator. When her action heros are attempting a potentially dangerous maneuver—like climbing a spinning ladder or diving to avoid being hit by a metal beam—fear helps them assess if they're truly ready.
You can watch the whole conversation here, not to mention loads of footage of Streb's daring performers in action.
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While Solange was busy helping big sis Beyoncé give Coachella its best performances of all time, an equally compelling project was quietly circulating on Instagram:
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
In his final bow at New York City Ballet, during what should have been a heroic conclusion to a celebrated ballet career, Robert Fairchild slipped and fell. His reaction? To lie down flat on his back like he meant to do it. Then start cracking up at himself.
"He's such a ham," says his sister Megan Fairchild, with a laugh. "He's really good at selling whatever his body is doing that day. He'll turn a moment that I would totally go home and cry about into something where the audience is like, 'That's the most amazing thing ever!' "
New York City Ballet continues its first year without Peter Martins at the helm as our spring season opens tonight.
When he retired at the start of the new year, we plunged headfirst into unknown, murky waters. Who would the new director be? When would we know? Would we dancers get some say in the decision? Who would oversee the Balanchine ballets? Who would be in charge of casting? Would a new director bring along huge upheaval? Could some of us be out of a job?
In the world of ballet, Arcadian Broad is a one-stop shop: He'll come up with a story, compose its music, choreograph the movement and dance it himself. But then Broad has always been a master of versatility. As a teenager he juggled school, dance and—after the departure of his father—financial responsibility. It was Broad's income from dancing that kept his family afloat. Fast-forward six years and things are far more stable. Broad now lives on his own in an apartment, but you can usually find him in the studio.
Bales of hay, black umbrellas, bicycles—this Midsummer Night's Dream would be unrecognizable to the Bard. Alexander Ekman's full-length, inspired by Scandinavian solstice traditions and set to music by Mikael Karlsson, is a madcap celebration of the longest day of the year, when the veil between our world and that of the supernatural is said to be at its thinnest. The Joffrey Ballet's performances mark the seductively surreal work's North American premiere. April 25–May 6. joffrey.org.
"There's an ancient energy in Fana's movement, a deep and trusted knowing," says Jeff, director of the Chicago-based Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. "Because I witnessed the raw humanity of his dancer's souls, I wanted my dancers to have that experience."
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
Choreographer Sergio Trujillo asked the women auditioning for ensemble roles in his newest musical to arrive in guys' clothing—"men's suits, or blazers and ties," he says. He wasn't being kinky or whimsical. The entire ensemble of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical is female, playing men and women interchangeably as they unfold the history of the chart-busting, Grammy-winning, indisputable Queen of Disco.