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Streb brings her special brand of dance to campus

Dancer Elizabeth Streb will be an artist in residence at MIT this month.
Dancer Elizabeth Streb will be an artist in residence at MIT this month.
Photo / Scott Suchman

The unique movement vocabulary of dancer/choreograher Elizabeth Streb has been compared to sports, the circus, physics experiments, Hollywood stunt work and hard labor.

"Elizabeth Streb's choreography is off the wall. Literally," wrote Rose Eichenbaum in Dance Magazine. "She combines the spirit of Merce Cunningham and the daring of Evel Knievel in her unyielding passion for action, speed and force. Body slams, near-hit-and-miss collisions, rebounding off immobile surfaces and the defiance of gravity are all Streb signature moves."

Streb will be in residence Oct. 18-21. While at MIT, she will visit classes, give workshops, and share meals with faculty, staff and students. She will present the 2004 Abramowitz Memorial Lecture titled "Outerlimits: The Analysis and Accomplishment of Wild Action and Real Moves" Monday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m. in Room 34-101. Streb will discuss the invention of new moves particularly contained in the act of pushing the body to the outer limits of its present capabilities. The talk will be accompanied by live footage, still images, words, music and sound.

For more than 20 years, Streb has challenged many assumptions about dance. Her investigation of movement through the study of science and the human body has led her to make choreographic choices that depart from classical norms. Aesthetics of grace, the use or camouflage of gravity, the presence or absence of transitions, treatment of gender, the nature of spatial and temporal dimensions as well as the use of sound in theatrical presentations have been among her areas of exploration.

Streb's creative process draws from the sciences and mathematics, requires the design and creation of beautifully engineered equipment, and demands athleticism, fearlessness and precision from her dancers. Working in the Streb Laboratory for Action Mechanics, Streb's company has engineered a system that allows the body to execute the choreography through the development of specific muscles and the unusual placement of body parts.

The Abramowitz Memorial Lecture, presented by the Office of the Arts, was established at MIT through the generosity and imagination of William L. Abramowitz '35 as a memorial to his father. It has been sustained since his death by the devoted interest of his wife and children. The series brings renowned performing artists and writers to campus.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 6, 2004 (download PDF).

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