Quantum Leaps

Streb's action heroes explode the physics of motion

Flanders says that in their respective fields she and Streb "share an interest in the good question," one that may spark "useful thinking." She speaks of their common interest in human potential. "When I go to her work, I'm moved. I feel the world is going to hell in a handbasket, politicians can't agree, and then I watch people flying."

If flying were easy, what Streb does wouldn't be so affecting. We see the dancers' bravery in the face of risk, the split-second timing they have to master to avoid disaster, their intelligence, their endurance. They're not lab rats; they're colleagues and they behave that way. Ease isn't an option. "The quality of that turbulence" in her works is, Streb says, "as extreme as I can make it without bringing a small tornado in or having an earthquake occur." (Insurance costs her over $35,000 a year.)

She believes that if you really want to do something, you'll find a way to make it happen. Her company has had four touring engagements since mid March, and a three-week run of SLAMSHOW 7 in the Lab (one of two she stages annually). And in practical matters, she'll limit the risks. She wants to have a crew of technicians completely break down the wheel and put it together again before the tons of equipment get loaded into a 48-foot tractor trailer and carted up to La Guardia. She's rented the theater a week in advance.

Big wheels: Laura Flanders and Elizabeth Streb
photo: Fiona Aboud
Big wheels: Laura Flanders and Elizabeth Streb

As she sits by the door in her usual biker's leather, offering warm goodbyes and come-agains to the parents and kids leaving classes, I realize that the challenges she sets herself only seem quixotic. "I take the invisible," she says, "and implement it . . . take completely unique forces and throw a cloud of dust on them so they take shape. You can see the effect of action, but the ghost that is action has already left the room."


For information about Streb's performances, visit lincolncenter.org or call Centercharge at 212-721-6500.

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