Elizabeth Streb: Dancing with Danger

It’s rare for an artist to disavow her own genre, but Elizabeth Streb may well be the most fervently anti-dance choreographer you’ve ever met.


About Elizabeth Streb

MacArthur “Genius” Award-winner, Elizabeth Streb has dived through glass, allowed a ton of dirt to fall on her head, walked down (the outside of) London’s City Hall, and set herself on fire, among other feats of extreme action. Her popular book, STREB: How to Become an Extreme Action Hero, was made into a hit documentary, Born to Fly directed by Catherine Gund (Aubin Pictures), which premiered at SXSW and received an extended run at The Film Forum in New York City in 2014. Streb founded the STREB EXTREME ACTION COMPANY in 1985. In 2003, she established SLAM, the STREB Lab for Action Mechanics, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. SLAM’s garage doors are always open: anyone and everyone can come in, watch rehearsals, take classes, and learn to fly.

Streb has been a featured speaker presenting her keynote lectures at such places as TEDxMET, the Institute for Technology and Education (ISTE), POPTECH, the Institute of Contemporary Art (in conversation with physicist, Brain Greene), The Brooklyn Museum of Art (in conversation with author A.M. Homes), the National Performing Arts Convention, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), the Penny Stamps Speaker Series at the University of Michigan, Chorus America, the University of Utah, and as a Caroline Werner Gannett Project speaker in Rochester NY, among others.

Rough and Tumble Alec Wilkinson’s profile of Elizabeth Streb, appeared in The New Yorker magazine in June, 2015.

Streb received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius’ Award in 1997. She holds a Master of Arts in Humanities and Social Thought from New York University, a Bachelor of Science in Modern Dance from SUNY Brockport, and honorary doctorates from both SUNY Brockport and Rhode Island College. Streb has received numerous other awards and fellowships including the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1987; a Brandeis Creative Arts Award in 1991; two New York Dance and Performance Awards (Bessie Awards), in 1988 and 1999 for her “sustained investigation of movement;” a Doris Duke Artist Award in 2013; and over 30 years of on-going support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). In 2009, Streb was the Danspace Project Honoree. She served on Mayor Bloomberg’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission and is a member of the board of the Jerome and Camargo Foundations.

Major commissions for choreography include: Lincoln Center Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center, MOCA, LA Temporary Contemporary, the Whitney Museum of Art, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, the Park Avenue Armory, and London 2012, the Cultural Olympiad for the Summer Games.

Born to Fly aired on PBS on May 11, 2014 and is currently available on Netflix and iTunes. OXD, directed by Craig Lowy, which follows STREB at the 2012 London Olympics, premiered at the IFC theater in New York City on February 2, 2016. Streb and her company have also been featured in PopAction by Michael Blackwood, on PBS’s In The Life and Great Performances, The David Letterman Show, BBC World News, CBS Sunday Morning, CBS This Morning, Business Insider, CNN’s Weekend Today, MTV, on the National Public Radio shows Studio 360 and Science Friday, on Larry King Live, and on an episode of Bob Garfield’s “Genius Dialogues,” available on Audible.

(from artist's website)