When Dance, Architecture and Robotics Collide

March 26, 2014

Sometimes the most interesting impetuses for movement come from ideas that, at least initially, seem only tangentially related to dance. For years, choreographer Elizabeth Streb has been preoccupied with the idea of risk. From how high can a dancer free fall, or at what speed can two dancers collide, without causing injury? They’re un-dancerly premises, more concerned with physics than composition, and yet they’ve resulted in an exhilarating body of dance work.


Streb’s company STREB Extreme Action is about to begin a residency at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln, NE. In preparation for the visit, University of Nebraska–Lincoln students from the dance, theatre, architecture, computer science and engineering departments have been channeling Streb, considering dance from unusual perspectives. The dancers have been working on phrases that ignore the effects of gravity; engineering students have constructed flying robotic drones that will “perform” alongside the dancers; members of the second-year architecture class have sketched out a series of projections evoking frightening, risky spaces.


All of their work will culminate in STREB Extreme Action’s time on campus in April—which, fittingly enough, corresponds with National Robotics Week. Streb and her company will work with the students to assemble all those pieces into one provocative, multidisciplinary work.


Seem hard to imagine? Here’s a video showing some of the students’ inventions: