Gravity is a Dancer's Best Friend, with Elizabeth Streb

The extreme action dance pioneer takes us through the theory behind PopAction and how flying, falling dancers teach audiences about resilience and hope.

Choreographer Elizabeth Streb is a force in the contemporary dance world. She teaches a unique brand of extreme impact movement she calls PopAction at SLAM (the STREB Lab for Action Mechanics) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In today's featured Big Think interview, Streb explains the philosophy behind PopAction and the ways in which dancers should aspire to be more like American football players:


     

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

         

         

       

     

       

"Gravity is our friend, you know. It’s many people’s, you know, it’s an aberration to them. It’s something that they avoid at all costs. Do not fall down. We [at] STREB really believes that gravity is the most exciting force on earth."

As you can see from the film excerpts in the video above (especially near the 3:20 mark, a lot of what the dancer are doing involves falling down -- sometimes with what looks like huge impact. Streb explains that if you allow your body to land perfectly horizontally after a fall of three feet, the resulting wallop will be exhilarating. 

"I think that gravity is where the content of theatrical action resides. I think that that’s where the drama is. It shows the danger. It shows the force of our world. It shows the bravery of the dancers. And I think it’s a metaphor also."

That metaphor is one of perseverance. You have the ability to takes shots and punches, get back up, and keep going. There's something magical about one's ability to maintain a course of action like that.

Dance as an art form speaks through a specialized physical vernacular. When an audience watches a ballerina pirouette or a STREB dancer fly, the message conveyed is one of the physical and emotional potential of the human body. What do you see when you watch Streb's dancers practice their form? How does dance affect you as an art form? Let us know your thoughts down below in the comments.

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