By Kylee Pike
On Friday night I entered the Nazareth College Arts Center eager to view STREB Extreme Action Company, directed by Action Architect and Choreographer Elizabeth Streb. The lobby was buzzing with energy when I arrived. Community members gathered to once again ask what is dance? and how does this company fit in?
There were moments during the performance where I actually held my breath, concerned that a performer was going to lose a nose (Crush). It was exhilarating! Narrowly escaping a steel bar is an everyday occurrence for a STREB Action Hero. Of course I was amazed at the final piece Invisible Forces. The way the Action Heroes moved swiftly and effortlessly from the wheel to the base then through the air was intriguing. Though it was well-choreographed and extremely difficult, it looked as though the performers were just enjoying a normal Friday evening together.
The piece that fit in between Roboto and Writhe, entitled Little Ease in other STREB performances, I had seen on video in graduate school at SUNY Brockport. For a composition class, a friend of mine re-staged Little Ease (this friend also auditioned for STREB Extreme Action in a 3-day eliminate yourself process. Though she left with a cut on her chin, she loved every minute of it!) Knowing the strength and pain that goes along with this piece, I truly appreciated the efforts of performer Sarah Donnelly. For me, this piece most resembled “a dance” as she moved throughout the suspended box, sliding and pressing her body in various positions in different areas of the large prop. I was thrilled to see this live.
Coming back to the question “What is dance?” For me there were aspects that absolutely made STREB: Forces dance. The well-choreographed segments, the clear spatial patterns, the flow of the movement, the beautifully trained dancers. It all added up to what I consider dance. The non-dance aspects were seen mostly in the Rebound section as the dancers took turns running, flipping and body slamming onto a mat. That displayed more gymnastic or circus qualities.
I loved experiencing this company live in action. I appreciated the humor of the choreography, dancers and Streb’s words in the video. Nothing was taken too seriously, though each performer had to have a serious mindset to execute the precise movements. I also loved the moments when someone did not land an action as planned and had to adjust to be in the right place in the space. Those moments truly humanized the company.
Though the performers are Action Heroes and demonstrated super human and fearless actions, they are people and they make mistakes. I liked that every movement was not perfect. It made me curious about what was going to happen next.