Choreographer Elizabeth Streb on Why Dance Should Be More Like Football

Choreographer Elizabeth Streb on Why Dance Should Be More Like Football

PopAction is a form that I and Streb, you
know, the larger Streb which is pretty much hundreds and hundreds of dancers at this point
have been developing over the last 30 years. If we were just an urban kind of crazy set
of action aficionados it would be similar to parkour but because I was in the dance
world and located myself in the early seventies in the downtown experimental postmodern dance
world I placed a very formal lens over my investigations. The simple idea about PopAction
was I believed that humans could fly and that’s where the genesis of the whole idea began
by me awkwardly leaping off ladders and crashing to the floor. I didn’t realize how complicated it would
be and how much hardware I’d need and how impractical it is to fly, you know, on every
level. So I started really low to the ground and decided that – it was also a theatrical
artistic suspicion that I thought no one lands. Like it’s not just flight, it’s a failure
of flight. The dance world doesn’t ever land. They spend a lot of technical time camouflaging
gravity. The circus never lands, they just swing. It’s beautiful, aesthetic but there’s
no rhythm in swinging. They don’t land either. Gymnastics doesn’t land. Only maybe football
and American boxing deals with impact. So I early on started to develop a technique
for taking the hit when we landed. And I think that the drama of action theater is really
embedded in that moment. But I think flight, flips, things that different acrobats do but
weren’t considered elitist moments in time and space and body actually are the most exciting
moves a human can do. I noticed that and I wanted to embed it into my action scenario
more. So it wasn’t just flight. It was how you fly and that you land. if you examine normal dance and their base
of support is usually the bottoms of their feet we shift our base of support. A couple
formal principles here in PopAction are just shifting your base of support from the bottoms
of your feet which puts you into normal pedestrian spatial locality and maybe landing on your
stomach, landing on your back, landing on your shins, landing on your side, landing
on your shoulders so that you really resculpt the occupational space the body is in and
therefore provide a different point of view or vantage point to the audience. And then I also believed after the Muybridge
plates on human movement potential and animal movement potential that I wanted to remove
all transitions, all predictive acts. So the plié you do when you’re going to jump.
And I’m not interested theatrically in showing the audience my preparation or my recovery.
So it just went down being in unhabitual places in space, encountering danger, inhabiting
force fields because I believe that the action experience artistically had to be for the
audience a kinesthetic experience, not a storytelling idea. 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 – STREB really believes that gravity is the most exciting
force on earth. It’s oddly enough out of all the four forces, the weakest. And yet
if you hurl your body up a foot off the ground only or even three feet and then you just
let it land perfectly horizontally, you’ll get a wallop that you just can’t imagine.
And I could invite all your audience to just try it, you know. First on your mattress in
your bedroom and then go ahead and do it on the carpeted floor. But you have to stay perfectly horizontal.
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 if you can do
that and keep getting up and do it again, it somehow magically spreads a message that
you’re willing to let that happen to your body where more privileged people – people
that tend to be in higher classes keep harm very, very, very far away from them. And we’re
basically letting harm come right into our body, into our corpuscles. And I think that
the metaphor that that contains and transfers to anybody witnessing it allows them to think
well I could go just a little bit further. I could do just a little bit more. I could
be just a little bit braver.

13 thoughts on “Choreographer Elizabeth Streb on Why Dance Should Be More Like Football

  1. Great video, however I think it was a mistake to put a video explaining Elizabeth Strebs "action-impact" dance on a channel like Big Think. As many non-dancers would not understand the relevance between this new form of movement in relation to the history of dance. I guess the pros are that it has the potential to reach 1 million of the subscribers, but also has the potential to be negatively received as some pseudo-hippie-bs.

  2. At first I was mortified…having visions of people jumping out of buildings on 9/11….  Then around 3:36…  I haven't laughed that hard in a LOONG time.  So weird.  Physical humor usually doesn't get to me that deeply.  They's getting the best whollops, ever.  You should try it.  AHHAAHAH.

  3. I was very curious how a dancing topic made it to Big Think. Turns out it's not about dancing (as normal people know it) nor should it be on Big Think.

  4. The first half had my eyes rolling.  While it's kind of cool to allow for alternative axes of motion, I (and I think most people) couldn't care less about some new, wire-based approach to dance.  HOWEVER, as a martial artist, I loved the second half.  I can definitely understand how embracing pain can result in immense growth and diminished fear of LIVING.  Also as a musician, I've just reexamined phrases like "fall flat on my face" or "break a leg".  When we embrace the pain that comes with pushing our limits, it's far less likely to stop us from pushing.

  5. Impact, probably why anime characters look so interesting while stopping from a high speed or high impulse action.

    They don't absorb, they grip the environment or explode the energy away.

    Different side of the same concept.

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