Streb: How to Become an Extreme Action Hero


Elizabeth Streb has been testing the potential of the human body since childhood. Can she fly? Can she run up walls? Can she break through glass? How fast can she go? With clarity and humor?and with a world-class dance troupe called STREB?she continues to investigate what real movement is and has come to these conclusions: It's off the ground! It creates impact! It hurts trying to stop it! In this pathbreaking book, Streb combines memoir and analysis to convey how she became an extreme action ...

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Elizabeth Streb has been testing the potential of the human body since childhood. Can she fly? Can she run up walls? Can she break through glass? How fast can she go? With clarity and humor—and with a world-class dance troupe called STREB—she continues to investigate what real movement is and has come to these conclusions: It's off the ground! It creates impact! It hurts trying to stop it! In this pathbreaking book, Streb combines memoir and analysis to convey how she became an extreme action dancer/choreographer, developing a form of movement that's more NASCAR than modern dance; more boxing than ballet.

Once called the Evel Knievel of dance, Elizabeth Streb intertwines the disciplines of dance, athletics, rodeo, the circus, and Hollywood stunt-work. She founded STREB in 1985, which performs internationally in theaters, museums, and town squares. She established S.L.A.M. (STREB Lab for Action Mechanics) in 2003, a factory space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which produces a cottage industry of extreme action performances and invites everyday people to wonder about movement, gravity, and flight.

Actor, playwright, and author Anna Deavere Smith is performing her latest play Let Me Down Easy off-Broadway, and she appears on Showtime's Nurse Jackie.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

In this dizzying, inspirational self-help memoir, choreographer and performer Streb details her life-long exploration of movement, the body, and time while providing brief lessons in math and practical philosophy: "Impact is a primal and primitive practice we at my dance company STREB accept: the full, weighted human body, with its issues of vectors and forces and angles of incidence and choices that are incurred in the flash of an instant, yet determine everything." Based out of "an anti-white cube, anti-glass bubble, anti-ivory tower arena" in New York, STREB creates performances such as Artificial Gravity, which "explores whether there is a perfect radius that would be essential for the human form on a horizontal surface," and "Wild Blue Yonder," commemorating the anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight ("STREB began with a dream of flight, rugged and rough... dealing with true space, the sky, an area above the ground"). In her explanations and experiments, including an unprotected and unrehearsed dive through glass, Streb gives readers news ways to consider the body and its movement, from "the mechanical measurement of the legs, arms, torso, neck, hips, feet, shoulders, ankles, and knees" to "the alchemetic processes of the neurological systems." Accompanied by full-color and black-and-white photographs, Streb's riveting prose should provoke and inspire philosophy students, dancers, and athletes of all kinds.
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From the Publisher

"Fearlessness and intelligence combined—that is what makes Elizabeth Streb's work so potent and beautiful."—Mikhail Baryshnikov

"[Streb]…has long been a pioneer in blending gymnastics, dance, acrobatics and sheer daredevil insanity, and many have seen her work as an exhibition of pure dance energy."—New York Times

"Streb is a glorious acrobatic adventure."—The Guardian

"Streb cooks up a vibrant stew that's part circus, part sporting event, part theater, part student recital, and part scrupulous time-motion-energy investigation. The neighborhood sniffs the aroma and crowds in the door."—Village Voice

"Ah, finally an artist who is not afraid of handling live eels, confronting an army of rats or diving head first through a panel of glass! Elizabeth Streb also recalls carrying enormous pails of water back and forth from a river when she was 10, riding her first motorcycle at age 15, and how at 18 she once held a sheet-rock panel above her head for an entire afternoon waiting for a never-returning carpenter! In this inspiring and passionate book, ultra-tenacious Elizabeth shares with the reader some of her surrealist goals: leaving a room through the walls; never landing after jumping; and moving so fast that you stand still…Wow!"—Philippe Petit

Library Journal
Streb's lifelong passion has been to experience and understand extreme movement. Drawn to intensely physical encounters as a child, she studied dance only to find that traditional theory, training, and performance raised more questions for her. With a dream to fly and the desire to feel "real moves," or moves that are irreducible and have no alternate meaning, Streb founded STREB Extreme Action Company in 1985 and developed PopAction, a new movement vocabulary. Her eclectic inspirations include Immanuel Kant, the circus, Harry Houdini, rodeo, Eadweard Muybridge, and Philippe Petit. For her original and brilliant approach to movement and the potentials of the human body, she was given a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship, among numerous other honors. VERDICT Streb's dynamism infuses this memoir, and her ideas will likely challenge readers' assumptions on many fronts. Highly recommended for a wide range of movement artists-dancers, choreographers, theater professionals, circus performers, and athletes.—Joan Stahl, librarian, George Washington's Mount Vernon, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558616561
  • Publisher: Feminist Press at CUNY, The
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 700,707
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 5.36 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

In 2003, Streb established S.L.A.M. (Stereo Lab for Action Mechanics) in Brooklyn, NY. The company performs in theaters around the country as well as in its own massive performance space in Williamsburg. Streb has received numerous fellowships and awards including a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and on-going support from the National Endowment for the Arts. An actress, playwright, and professor, Anna Deavere Smith is the recipient of two Obies, two Tony nominations, and a Macarthur fellowship. She was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for her play Fires in the Mirror. Appearing in several films including Philadelphia, Rachael Getting Married, and The American President, Smith has a recurring role on Nurse Jackie.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    Dance students highly recommens

    I just read Elizabeth Streb's book How To Become An Extreme Action Hero.
    Terrific explanation of Elizabeth's philosophy. Most of these dance books are by dance critics who never choreographed or explored their own philosophy of movement.
    Elizabeth has written a clear verbal examination.

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