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Review, 3-19: Slam Bam, Thank You M'am!
Streb Pops it in Brooklyn
By Faith Pilger
Copyright 2004 Faith Pilger
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NEW YORK -- On Friday,
March 12 I witnessed the second to last performance of Elizabeth
Streb's Slam Show, Home Series III. Streb and her "action faction"
simultaneously introduced a cross-generational audience to their
one-and-only Pop Action sideshow and to their brand new performance
and rehearsal space in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I nervously
munched on fresh POPcorn while enjoying the intentionally state
fair-like atmosphere inside this raw, spacious home for the now
infamous family of daredevil dancer/action heros.
For those who have never
had their Streb cherry popped (or should I say SLAMMED), this company
of dancers far exceeds even the highest expectations of stamina
and the limitations of gravity. Muscles bulge obscenely. Bodies
fall, swing and fling against any possible surface and voices belt
out military style cues to one and other for both practical and
entertainment value. The production name is an acronym for "Streb
Lab for Action Mechanics," and indeed the mechanics are on display
with daredevil style. This particular event has a more casual swagger
and seems particularly family-oriented. Kids who have been training
in Streb-style flock to the front of the crowd and jump up on the
stage to perform their own tricks in the middle of the show. Equally
talented company apprentices show off their own tricks at opportune
moments. A brand new trapeze is demonstrated by a powerful Jonah
Spear. "Rough Footage," a preview from a piece called "Gauntlet"
to premiere at Lincoln Center in August, is tested upon the audience.
They are is seated on folding chairs and XXL gymnastic mats, which
often must be cleared off for the next act. As a result the audience
is a bit unsettled, both by the extremity of the action and by the
revolving seating. This seems to have been intentional, but was
not ideal. A questionnaire inside the program asked specific questions,
including one regarding the seating situation and whether bleachers
would be better. Hopefully this will be the next addition to the
As for the acts themselves,
they were all short, sweet, specific and exciting with a few stand-out
moments and stand-out company members. Terry Dean Bartlett, also
company associate artistic director and choreographer of a few acts,
was in top form. His solo "Spin," in which he suggestively rotated
on a meathook, was breathtaking in its grace and flawless in it's
technique. Bartlett's mastery of this style allows him to be more
playful and more subtle, and to flirt mischievously with his fans.
In a duet with Johah Spear called "Hoops," again Bartlett swings
and writhes easily in, out and around the hanging hula-hoops. The
two female company members, DeeAnn Nelson and Christine Chen (the
latter also being a contributor to this publication) are awesome
in their strength, keeping right up with the men in all aspects.
Two others, Aaron Henderson and Fabio Tavares, round out the group
with their intensity and precision. More than anything, the lycra-unitard
clad company acts as a team, reliant on each other for their own
safety, and they seem to possess a trust and comfort which is very
enjoyable to watch.
My favorite moments,
and the ones which remain with me long afterwards, are those which
express the joy of movement, the power of energy, air and flight:
a body falling 100 feet (or so it seemed) from a rising plank, two
bodies attached by rope but flinging their force away from one another,
bodies sliding on a long strip of mat (a la slip-and-slide), bodies
swinging from ropes toward the audience, coming so close that performers
and audience members' faces are inches apart, cement blocks swinging
through the air as bodies explore the spaces between them, sometimes
walking slowly and very nearly missing the blocks, bodies squirming
and stacking upon one another inside a small, locked box (a tribute
to Houdini) and Chen's partly strained smile as she spins and rotates
in "Fly" at the close of the program. In the latter, all dancers
were involved in this tribute to a man who's curiosity took him
thousands of feet into the air attached to balloons. The machine
Chen is strapped into is something between a carnival ride (the
zipper?) and a very advanced teeter-totter.
I enjoyed the pieces
on this program I had seen before even more a second time and the
new ones, particularly the "Gauntlet" preview, seemed to be even
more subtle than the classics. It all made for an enjoyable evening.
I recommend any future SLAM show, especially to families. Kids seem
to enjoy the work tremendously, especially after trying it in a
class setting. And half of the pleasure of the show (for me) was
enjoying the kids' responses. To take a class (children or adults)
visit the studio at 51 North 1st St., call 718-384-6491 or visit
the company's web
Faith Pilger is a professional dancer and Pilates-based personal
trainer. She has also choreographed, produced, curated and hosted
numerous shows in NYC and abroad. Currently look for her in the
companies of PerksDanceMusicTheatre, Poon, Nicole Berger and performing
her own work with the SaReel Project. Visit her at www.pilger.com/faith.
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