Recently, I found myself standing shoeless on a padded red gymnastics mat, partially enclosed in a scaffolding-composed canopy, struggling to balance on one foot, let alone levitate. (Yes, I was supposed to levitate.) I was participating in an invite-only workshop at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College led by the Streb Extreme Dance Company, a group that stages gravity-defying dance performances that combine virtuosity, technical skill and popular appeal. Throughout the session, four company members led a small group of us through sequences of positions that would help hold our bodies in the air, or propel our bodies through the air. Think yoga, with the endgame being flight. (Yeah, it’s as hard as it sounds.)
Founded by American choreographer Elizabeth Streb in New York City in 1985, the dance troupe pushes the limits of how experimental dance is perceived by audiences—not to mention what is humanly possible for a dancer to accomplish during a performance. And the company has made the world its stage. It’s performed in far-off destinations such as Chile, Singapore and Taiwan; as well as some of New York City’s most prestigious venues, including at Madison Square Garden, in front of the Cyclone roller coaster on Coney Island, at the Lincoln Center Festival, under the arches of the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage and on the façade of New York City department store Bergdorf Goodman (yes, on the outside of the building).
If you’re interested in seeing—or dancing with—Streb, you’ll have more than a few opportunities over the next two weeks. On June 8, Streb members will be at Skidmore at 1pm, 1:30pm, 3pm and 3:30pm, leading children ages 5-11 in 30-minute workshops focusing on performance art and overcoming fears. (Reservations are required and should be made by calling the Tang Visitor Services Desk, are required.) On June 13 at 7pm, the Tang will host a dialogue between Elizabeth Streb and Anne Bogart, director of SITI Company, regarding the collaborative piece they’re working on, FALLING & LOVING. On June 14 at 7pm, the company will put on a classic performance, flying high in new and recent works including Molinette, Air, Tilt, Revolution and Remain. The following day, Streb will help the Tang celebrate its 6th annual Frances Day with tours, art-making, music, food, demonstrations and workshops. Then, on Thursday, June 20, Streb will be at Skidmore, offering rehearsal viewings, workshops, talks and performances to the general public. Additionally, Elizabeth Streb and Anne Bogart will present an informal showing of FALLING & LOVING, which is still a work in progress. For more info on the entire schedule of events, click here.