The Function of Risk: Breath, Gravity, and Play in STREB

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This research analyzes the function of extreme action and risk in the choreographic work of Elizabeth Streb. I question how extreme risk in choreography activates the bodies in the audience, calling them into a deeper empathetic experience than passive observation. Then, in this activated state of witnessing, does the choreography become actionable? While Streb distances herself from the aesthetics and priorities of Western modern dance, I argue that many of Streb’s critics frame her work inside of the concert dance paradigm. Then, many critics review her work from a visualist bias that only ogles at the work’s spectacularity. Streb advocates for her work as action, not dance, and thus I prioritize the vitality affects, or kinetic elements, of her work to see past the visual spectacle (Sklar 2008). This method of movement analysis allows for a reading of Streb’s work in its own language – we attend to what we hear and feel over what we see. Using the scholarship of Jean Thomas Tremblay (2022), Ann Cooper Albright (2019), and Janet O’Shea (2019), I trace breath, gravity, and play through two of Streb’s core action events: Little Ease (1991) and SEA (2018). This movement analysis reveals the weighted resilience of Streb’s work that does not transcend the inescapable forces laid upon bodies, particularly bodies that experience class-based and gender-based oppression, but persists with realism and endurance through them. The extreme action and risk of Streb’s work unearths more than a gasp or cringe but also activates a shift or new awareness in the witness's body that is rooted in the queer, working class consciousness of Streb’s movement cosmology.


The Arts: 1st Place (The Ohio State University Edward F. Hayes Advanced Research Forum)


Dance, Choreography, Performance, Risk, Breath, Kinetic