The phrase suicide dive doesn't resonate well on Wall Street, where it evokes grisly images of the 1929 crash. It bugs Elizabeth Streb, too. It's an old gymnastics term, she says, and like much language about movement it reeks of cultural bias. "Some moves get diminutive names, like flip, when they're categorically amazing. Others, if too extreme, get outlawed." So it wasn't to soothe hedge-fund managers that Streb, who's now holding open rehearsals at the World Financial Center's Winter Garden, renamed a few. Instead of suicide dive and dead man, she prefers the dolphin and back layout.
Each weekday at lunchtime, performers ricochet off her erector-set stage. They're creating a new section for her most recent show, which opened at the Joyce Theater in 1997, just after she won a MacArthur "genius" grant. The three-week Winter Garden residency, funded by Chase and the New York State Council on the Arts, ends with a free performance Tuesday night at 7. More free shows follow on July 15 and 16 at Coney Island and July 18, after a segment on CBS Sunday Morning, at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island.
The new piece, Punch the Jump, explores the rhythmic possibilities of adding a second trampoline. "It's like going from a string quartet to an orchestra," says Streb. The title is a term for two gymnasts landing on a trampoline at exactly the wrong time. "Punch the jump is everything we learned not to do. But as we got more skilled, we wondered what happens if you do 'punch the jump.' It catapults the other person into an uncharted direction. You have to use improvisatory reflexes and make decisions fast because a lot of force is behind you. So we're dealing with really erratic turbulence."
To Streb, wilder is better. "I've been reading about rodeos and those eight seconds of hell on the back of a bull. Apparently you can't train for it. It's a nontechnique thing and you've just got to survive. I'm attracted to that idea."