Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thursday Night in Prospect Park: Celebrate Brooklyn! presents STREB: "Invisible Forces" dance/action/movement

We very much enjoyed tonight's STREB performance, "Invisible Forces," at the Prospect Park bandshell, another great evening of Celebrate Brooklyn!

We got there at 8 p.m., wearing a jacket because the night was nicely cool for July, and managed to find an end seat.

Our primitive cell phone pics make the dancers look really small. Here's a good video, though:

As the publicity about "Invisible Forces" said,
STREB, the seminal, Williamsburg-based acrobatic company, celebrates 30 years with Invisible Forces, which combines the thrills of the circus and the velocity of the Indy 500 in one event. The show features STREB’s new Action Platform, a 20-foot, rotating floor; the EspaƱa Whizzing Gizmo; and the two-dimensional vertical pipe grid, Airlines. The result is a singular spectacle in which finely tuned bodies engage with hardware, exemplifying what The Village Voice recently said of the company: “Streb’s unique movement art—kin to sport, circus, physics experiment, and hard labor—has reached a peak of theatricality and dare-all virtuosity."

MacArthur Fellowship winner Elizabeth Streb doesn't just test the boundaries of physical motion, she redefines them. From nail-biting mid-air suspension to glorious 20-foot swan dives, Streb and her dancers present a strikingly original American art form, one that captures the imagination, triggers the adrenaline and catapults audiences into a new century of dance."

Deborah Jowitt wrote a few months ago in the Village Voice:
From the start, Streb made you aware of human risk, the potential for error, the effects of momentum. Gradually she upped the ante. Her works became more complex and ambitious, until her company members were walking on walls, slamming their bodies onto mic’d surfaces, and rebounding off trampolines. But these people weren’t—and still aren’t—circus acrobats, aiming for per-stunt applause; the weave of her pieces is too dense and too variegated for that. Nourishing her wit and imagination on math and physics, aiming to push the limits of human endeavor, she refers to her dancers as “action heroes.”

There was a big crowd, and a good number of kids, like the two behind us who were screaming like they were at the circus. Which is what the man who introduced the show wanted, for the audience to really make noise. He warmed us up with shouts of 1-2-3 BROOKLYN!

As Jowitt wrote,
There’s a sort of visual din too. Aaron Henderson’s vivid projection design shows us some numbers from overhead, occasionally multiplying images into kaleidoscopic patterns. Shapes swim in and out of focus. The short sentences in Laura Flanders’s libretto are projected kookily in addition to being heard on tape. You might want to memorize them for your next science test, as well as for a clue to the impending action (sample: “There is no stasis, only a sequence of situations”).

A New York Times review said
If dancers are the athletes of God, Streb's members are the gladiators. Flipping, tumbling, leaping marvels, they perform one arduous feat after another, putting their brawny bodies through punishing routines that leave their audiences grimacing and shielding their eyes.

But "Invisible Forces" doesn't necessarily add up to art. It's more like rowdy spectacle, with many of the popcorn-eating viewers cheering and whooping their way through almost two hours of action. How much you enjoy it depends largely on your tolerance for thrills and spills.

We have a lot of tolerance for pieces like "WallRun Turn," "Falling" and "Artificial Gravity." It was exciting to watch the movements, and the possibility of injury (a Streb dancer once broke her back during a performance) makes it a little scary. The body slams, St. Vitus dance-like virtuosity, the outrunning of an I-beam capable of doing great injury: well, as the five-year-old behind us gasped, "They're fearless!"

STREB put on a great show tonight.

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