May 12th 2010 By Brett Smiley
60-year-old Elizabeth Streb, an action-obsessed choreographer, dancer and founder of the Streb Lab for Action Mechanics
(S.L.A.M.), is more interested in learning to fly than retirement.
She calls her choreography "PopAction
," which intertwines the disciplines of dance, athletics, boxing, rodeo, the circus and Hollywood stunt-work. The result is a Cirque du Soleil–esque show that appears to defy gravity, like Streb's latest installment, entitled "Run Up Walls
"We develop the mentality gradually," Streb told Asylum. "First, we start on the ground. Then we do pratfalls where the body is vertical and you leave your feet where they are, then fall," adding that while hands and arms can soften the fall, it's really about learning to take a hit to the torso. "Our dancers acclimate themselves to the sensation of falling, build up their confidence that way, and then do it from greater heights."
Keep reading to see video of the troupe in action and hear more gravity-defying wisdom.
The dancers in the troupe are professionals, but Streb says anyone can come to classes to train. She suggests a thought exercise to "think of an impossible move."
"Just sit down with a pencil and think of a move no one has done, and then try to do it," she explains. "You get out of your comfort zone. We use some action gizmos, like our human hamster wheel. But in absence of something like that, try and figure out what is your comfort zone and how to get out of it."
Still, we're not sure we'd recommend this kind of training for the faint of heart. "For us," Streb says, "the most profound movement is letting extreme things happen to you and being able to survive."
You can still see "Run Up Walls" until May 23
at S.L.A.M. in Williamsburg or check out the new book "Streb: How to Become an Extreme Action Hero