Fearless dancer/choreographer Elizabeth Streb loves extreme motion and her troupe of strong dancers who offer up their bodies for the realization of shockingly difficult (often dangerous), beautiful feats.
Catherine Gund’s fascinating new documentary, “Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity,” explores the choreographer’s life (beginning with her adoption at age two and admiration for her bricklayer father, his strength and devotion to hard work) and art.
Gund interviews Streb, ex- and current dancers and observes the “extreme action architect” at home in lower Manhattan with partner Laura Flanders, and at her Extreme Action Company studio in Williamsburg.
Footage of decades of performance equally inspires awe and anxiety, particularly Streb’s conquering of “extreme air” during “One Extraordinary Day,” seven surprise, public performances that preceded the London 2012 Summer Olympics. The dancers used the city’s landmarks, including the Millennium Bridge and the 500-foot London Eye ferris wheel, as launching pads for soaring. And wearing harnesses, Streb and two of her dancers (in a tribute to legendary choreographer Trisha Brown), seemingly effortlessly strolled down the gorgeous, 10-story glass face of City Hall.
Streb explains, “Skill is being able to navigate the known world, but then being able to throw yourself into an unknown universe and being able to navigate that…in a mostly harm-free way.”
“Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity,” will open Wednesday September 10 at Film Forum for a one-week run, with Catherine Gund, Elizabeth Streb and dancers in person at several shows. Click on events in the menu bar of Film Forum’s website for details.