Elizabeth Streb

Elizabeth Streb

Elizabeth Streb is a choreographer, performer, teacher, and innovator of contemporary dance throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Background Information

Streb was born and raised in Rochester, New York and after graduating from the dance program of State University of New York at Brockport in 1972, she was interested in experimental works and worked and performed for many years with investigational groups including Molissa Fenley’s. [Reynolds, Nancy, and Malcom McCormick. "No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century". (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 624.] She also worked and performed with Margaret Jenkins in San Francisco for two years before relocating back to New York City [Morgenroth, Joyce. “Elizabeth Streb,” in "Speaking of Dance: Twelve Contemporary Choreographers on Their Craft", electronic edition, (Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis, 2005), 99.] In 1975, upon her arrival to New York City, Streb created her dance company STREB/ Ringside. In 2003, Streb established SLAM (Streb Laboratory for Action Movement) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn which created a new outlet for the community where people could come and watch rehearsals and even participate in classes.

In 1997, she was awarded a fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (sometimes called a “Genius” grant), two New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Awards, and grants from John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Mellon Foundation. [Morgenroth, "Elizabeth Streb," 100.]

Movement Characteristics & Use of Video within Work

Streb is known for “A preoccupation with movement and itself was symptomatic of a trend that was altering the traditional profile of modern dance.” [Reynolds and McCormick, "No Fixed Points", 625.] She has been creating works from 1975 to the present and is known for her outrageous risk taking and experimental shows she puts on. Streb includes risk into all of her choreography, giving the audience sensations of extreme feelings while watching the performers. She inquired about movement and the suppositions that the dance world created; and integrated actions and principles of the circus, rodeo, and daredevil “stunts.” [Morgenroth, "Elizabeth Streb," 99.] She grew up participating in extreme sports therefore, she associates a lot of her work with athletics; for example, skiing and motorcycling.

She wanted to gain a better understanding of the effects of movement on matter so she studied math, physics, and philosophy as Dean’s Special Scholar at New York University. Custom-made trapezes, trusses, trampolines, and a flying machine give Streb a way to discover new ways for the body to move in space while being subjected to gravity and other indistinguishable forces. Moves consist of diving off of sixteen foot high, metal scaffolding, also known as a “truss”, landing level on a mat. The performers also can be found launching through the air in, “Quick succession with timing so precise that they just miss occupying the same space at the same time.” [Morgenroth, "Elizabeth Sterb," 99.]

Streb’s work is extremely demanding and necessitates endurance, dexterity, great physical strength and the ability to be daring. Streb focuses progressively more on single actions, particularly falls and collisions.

In her recent years, productions have become less harsh and she has begun incorporating texts, videos, and projections of slides. Within her video collaborations, she incorporates camera angles that appear to evade gravity and making the dancers bound off and crash into the edges of the monitors. They also are often swung from cables and are seen leaping off platforms or hurling against padded walls or mattresses. The dancers who are trained under Elizabeth Streb are taught to follow movement’s natural force to the edge of real danger.

Communication between dancers includes verbal cues and in place of music the dancers’ grunts and gasps were electronically recorded and amplified as well as the thuds of their landings and the clank and clatter of the stage equipment. [Reynolds and McCormick "No Fixed Points", 625] With her newer choreography, Streb incorporates music as a part of the show being experienced by the audience. However, she has always upheld that, “Movement has its own timing, unrelated to music.” [Morgenroth, "Elizabeth Streb", 99.] Streb has always tried to contact more than just usual dance audiences.

She is also known for generally seeking out performance spaces that are out of the norm for most dance performances. Her works are showcased at high art venues such as Lincoln Center and the Spoleto Festival, but also at Grand Central Station, the boardwalk at Coney Island in New York, and in a mall in front of the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. [Morgenroth, "Elizabeth Streb," 99. ] Through exploration of gravity and motion Elizabeth Streb has created many amazing works. With her intricate eye she allows the audience to have a view not seen before she created it.

A quote by Elizabeth Streb states, “Go to the edge and peer over it. Be willing to get hurt, but not so hurt that you can’t come back again.”


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