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STREB - The War on Gravity

'Wild Blue Yonder'

It's never too late

by Dean Speer

September 5, 2005 -- Bumbershoot Arts Festival, Seattle

Just when I am beginning to think that I maybe, just maybe, have seen it all in dance and might be becoming bored– somewhat like Prince Orlovsky in Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” who is bored with everything – along comes something completely different. With titles like “Wild Blue Yonder,” “Spin,” “Air,” “SLIPANDSLIDE,” “Ricochet,” “Bilevel,” “Rise and Fall,” “Gravity,” “Slapstick,” “Squirm” and “Fly”, you know you’re in for a wild ride at the theatre. Did I mention it’s something completely different?

Elizabeth Streb’s company pushes the meaning of “amazing” beyond what white-wigged Webster could have imagined. It’s certainly not your average dance concert. Streb really takes concert dance to the max. She has a background in ballet and modern dance and is “fascinated by physics.” Streb is currently working on an M.A. in time and space through the study of physics, philosophy and architecture.

Company pieces work in the vertical part of the theatre space particularly. One of the hallmarks of their work is falling – and not just a nice Humphrey or Graham fall and recovery from the floor – but from height of up to 25 feet in the air onto mats. They’ve come up with a word and technique for affecting this called “popping.” This show falls into the category of “don’t try this at home!”

The sheer physical daring of the dancers is truly impressive and amazing. Their technique, timing, and sense of play and humor come through. A couple of my favorites included “Fly,” where a harnessed dancer is strapped to the end of what looks like a long catapult and is swung in arching circles at changing levels while other dancers interact underneath – and try not to get hit by this device.

Another was a take on the glass ant hill farm, called “Squirm.” The dancers fill up an aquarium and yes, while we think it’s completely too full, along comes one more who works his way up from the bottom and out from the top, then dives back in and comes back out the bottom.

Part dance, part gymnastics, part Cirque du Soleil, part physics lesson, and all exciting theatre, STREB will not fail to impress, delight, and appeal.

It’s never too late to imagine something new under the sun in dance and never too late to get in this tardy review!

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