Photo by Antoine Douaihy
It was hot. Like crack-a-hydrant-open hot. But there was no time for iced coffees and snow cones. We were on the hunt for the Brooklyn Superheroes. We turned off Bedford and headed toward the bleak, mysterious warehouses of North 1st Street, where the sky opens up and makes Manhattan look like a small, pocket-sized puzzle. And there, at the foot of the block, is where our “extreme action heroes” were first spotted — speckled across the warm sidewalk, hunched over salad bowls in pikes, splits, and other unorthodox poses. The performers about to make history in London were outside having lunch. What we knew about STREB was minimal. The owner, founder, and genius-extraordinaire, Elizabeth Streb, started the company in 1985, well before anyone would think to combine dance, action sports, and human flight. Yes, flight. (She’s not called the “Evil Knievel of dance” for nothing.) We also knew that “One Extraordinary Day,” the piece we were about to watch the dancers rehearse, was kind of a big deal. So much so that we were sworn to secrecy, left to ooh and ahh at the high-flying stunts with our iPhones and notepads tucked away.
We did get the OK to snap a couple incognito shots of other pieces, though, including one of the dancers in their sky-high stations, securely harnessed in at six, 10, and 25 feet overhead (see right). With scientific precision, the dancers moved from one dynamic position to the next in a strong but fluid sequence. We learned that at STREB, the action — not the music — tells the story. And with backgrounds in ballet, gymnastics, acrobatics, and theater (to name a few), these dancers have stories that could fill a warehouse, a city, and maybe light up the whole world. (Expect to hear more on that soon…) With equal emphasis, though, we learned that dance doesn’t have to be stuffy. Under the artistic direction of Fabio Tavares (who ran away to join the circus in Brazil at age 15), things are known to get a little kooky at the Williamsburg fun factory. And despite their superhuman skill, no one at STREB takes their work too seriously. They laugh. They smile. They invite you in for open rehearsals and for trapeze, “Pop Action,” and parkour classes in the fully-maximized space (formerly a mustard seed factory). Best of all, they remind us that growing old isn’t for everyone. So if you’re in Brooklyn or London this summer, open your hearts and your eyes, and just look up. To learn more about the STREB Extreme Action Company, the classes, and the space,visit streb.org, and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.