Elizabeth Streb on Fear (Plus, Watch Her Company in Action)

May 10, 2017

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.