New York

Elizabeth Streb Ringside

Joyce Theater

One might think it impossible for a choreographer to inspire physical empathy in the audience, yet, for the first time in my life, I experienced what I can only term sympathy pains while watching Elizabeth Streb Ringside. Dancers hurl themselves against walls and onto the ground fearlessly, percussively, and with what appears to be all their might, while the wincing audience collectively contracts. I’m reminded of Thoreau on Ktaadn, shouting “Contact!,” overwhelmed by the elemental, sheer muscle of nature.

Streb’s work differs significantly from the contact improvisation of Steve Paxton et al, but the physical trust and communication, the athletic quality and surges of energy seemed similar. Because so much of Streb’s work demands gymnastic split-second accuracy, the dancers often give directives to each other—whether about applying more pressure, or cuing their readiness for that next leap

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