Streb soars into the Eccles Center
New York City was a distant sparkling land of opportunity compared to Terry Dean Bartlett’s small hometown of Cody, Wyoming.
But, after receiving a degree in dance at the University of Montana, he was determined to challenge the entertainment capital.
"I moved to New York as a performer, as a dancer. I had a degree in dance and decided to go to this random audition," Bartlett said.
The audition was unlike any he previously experienced.
He walked into the studio and was asked by Elizabeth Streb, "Can you do a back flip and land on your stomach?"
Bartlett did it without hesitation.
"Can you climb this wall?" Streb said, pointing.
Again, Bartlett did it without hesitation.
"It sounded like something that wasn’t a problem," Bartlett said. "Other people at the audition had fear, I’ve never had a fear of the work that other people might."
His fearlessness and agility enabled him to make the group known as Streb 10 years ago. The other action specialists typify similar courage in their daring acts.
Streb will ring in the New Year at The Eccles Center with three performances: a matinee on Dec. 29 and evening shows on Dec. 30 and 31. Included in its visit to Park City will be a free community lecture and demonstration Dec. 30 at 11:30 a.m.
Streb grew out of Elizabeth’s fascination with stunt work and the "bizarre old action figures of the guy that would take a cannon ball in the stomach or the guy that would go over Niagara Falls in a barrel," Bartlett said.
She came from a dance background but quickly lost interest in typical dance techniques.
"She found often that traditional dance was too boring for her," said Bartlett who is also the associate artistic director. "She grew up downhill skiing and riding motorcycles. She felt like she was faking and wanted something more active."
Elizabeth started infusing her work with falls and impact. She used structures and sets involving trampolines and flying harnesses. Now Streb uses a 16-foot tall hamster wheel among other various moving pieces of equipment. Bartlett said Elizabeth studies physics, math, architecture and time and space in developing Streb’s shows.
"I like to call it ‘Jackass’ meets ‘Cirque Du Soleil,’" Bartlett said.
The action specialists crash into walls, fly through the air and throw themselves around stage. Bartlett said they will bring extra oxygen tanks to prepare for the higher elevation in Park City. Through it all, they encourage the crowd to cheer and gasp and be vocal at will.
"We all do cardio, weight training. Basically we are sprinting, climbing, throwing and falling. It’s the same amount of exertion in a soccer or football game. Most dancers are in most of the pieces all the way through," Bartlett said.
The production has gone far beyond dance, even though most of the performers have a dance background.
"Elizabeth stopped calling it ‘dance’ and started naming it ‘pop-action.’ It’s very acrobatic with stunt people and aerialists. It’s not dance," Bartlett said.
Although Streb focuses on safety practices like techniques to fall safely, the stunt-work isn’t without its fair share of injuries.
"We have one piece where we dodge cinder blocks," Bartlett said. "There are random bruises, chipped teeth and other typical sports injuries. The risk of (injury) is one of the exciting things for the audience; dodging cinder blocks and we could actually get cut in half by the hamster wheel."
The nature of Streb is exactly the kind of thing the Park City Performing Arts Foundation wants to bring to Park City.
"Elizabeth’s brilliant, she’s edgy. This is not a dance company it’s not a cirque company. It’s the most unusual thing that you will see," said Teri Orr, director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation.
When the PCPAF was started, Orr said Park City was interested in "a smorgasbord of entertainment."
"We had a great theater in the Egyptian, and we wanted to provide what didn’t exist already. We wanted to bring in national performers that were both known and unknown. We try to bring something in that’s edgy for Utah," Orr said.
Orr has been trying to bring Streb to the Eccles stage for the last five years since she saw them in Brooklyn.
"They are very expensive and it’s taken us years to get them," Orr said. "This year, David Belz and Elizabeth Solomon gave money to underwrite the performances. They saw a video of Streb and they said, ‘OK, we’re in.’"
As it often does, the Park City Performing Arts Foundation is participating in an outreach program with Streb.
"During the holidays we are opening this up to the community. Sometimes we do master classes, this one is to showcase how insane these people are," Orr said with a grin.
Orr said Streb will show how well trained their group is and some of the tricks behind their stunts.
"It will be a behind the scenes look at Streb," Orr said, concerning the free event held at the Eccles Center Dec. 30 from 11:30 a.m.
The outreach programs, which usually involve local schools, are something Orr and her staff is committed to bringing to Park City.
As a result of these outreach programs "the dance schools see an increase in enrollment," Orr said. "These kids have an opportunity that is unlike anywhere in the United States. We continue to have this great luxury in all different disciplines of the arts."
Streb has similar goals. Wherever they travel, they also try to help out with students.
"We’re very much about engaging the community and bringing art in an accessible way to people," Bartlett said. "The classes allow kids to be physically active and we teach them a little choreography. We have programs with the local YMCA and free classes with inner city youth. We try to become a part of the community instead of just in the community.
"We try to do that everywhere we go," Bartlett added. "When we go to other towns, we like to bring whatever action to them we can and help them realize they can do anything that they never thought of."
Streb’s performances include a free lecture Dec. 29 at 11:30 a.m., a show at 4 p.m. and two evening shows Dec. 30 and 31 at 8 p.m. at The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts at 1750 Kearns Blvd. Tickets range from $20 – $75 for the matinee on Dec. 29 and $25 – $125 for the Dec. 30 and 31 evening performances (children 12 and under are eligible for half price tickets and seniors receive a 20 percent discount. For more information, call 655-3114. a preview of the show can be found on http://www.youtube.com and search for Streb.
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