The Power of Proving that Women Can Be Action Heroes Too

March 28, 2020

Watching Jackie Carlson perform daredevil stunts with Streb Extreme Action, few would guess she used to be a professional ballet dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem.

“My appetite for the pursuit of perfection that ballet requires was my drive,” says Carlson, who grew up studying many forms of dance, plus gymnastics.

When DTH went on hiatus in 2004, Carlson began toying with the idea of becoming a stunt double, a career she’d always dreamed of. “I read about Streb in Dance Magazine, went to see a show, and it was like dance and stunt work all rolled into one explosive company.”

Quinn Wharton for
Dance Magazine

New challenges:
“With Streb, there are no mirrors anywhere, so having to feel and memorize what my body was doing instead of constantly checking myself to see if my position was on point was difficult at first.”

Post-rehearsal essential:
“I take an Epsom salt bath every night. It’s my saving grace.”

Cross-training routine:
“I don’t have to go crazy with strength training because work really puts me in the shape I need. You can’t re-create the intensity of repeatedly flying off a trampoline up about 10 feet in the air, precision-landing on your face, then getting out of the way before someone lands on top of you—and doing that over and over and over again.”

What’s on her playlist:
“Robyn is and always will be in every playlist I create. The Streb company went as a group to her concert last March—it was the greatest field trip ever.”

Outside of Streb:
“I love creating art with my girlfriend. I like to make buttons, do collages and create clothing that I sell at her hair salon in Brooklyn.”

Audience reactions:
“Our new piece of equipment is called the Molinette—it’s hard to explain, but when we take that first fall, the gasps and the screams from the audience, it thrills me. We get pretty much the same reaction no matter where we go, and I love it.”

Quinn Wharton for
Dance Magazine

Quinn Wharton for
Dance Magazine

Work schedule:
“We rehearse four hours a day, four days a week, starting with stretching and conditioning, often throwing in strength or acro training as well. If we don’t have a show, we get to play and explore different vocabulary on certain pieces of equipment. It’s like an adult playground.”

Pre-show habits:
“I try to rest well the night and morning before a performance, and if I’m home in Brooklyn, my girlfriend always cooks me a protein-heavy meal.”

The best part:

“I do a lot of teaching at Streb—mostly kids, who are the best action inventors ever! I love all my kids, but when a young girl looks up to me because I’m strong and powerful, and they realize they can be too, that’s what I do it for.”