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Flash 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 space.

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 site.

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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