Zap. Zowie. Zut Alors! That's what you might have been saying if you visited Scottsdale Center for the Arts on October 25 when Actionheroes hurtled into town on its own high-octane power. It's a new show by Elizabeth Streb and her eight-member dance company, Ringside. The group has been called the Flying Wallendas of dance, and that's no hyperbole. Its big, brazen dances take place on every dimension of the stage, but no matter how rife with danger or reckless they look, be assured they are carefully calibrated for safety. Well, as long as the dancers land on the trampoline perfectly and don't collide with each other. They'll try not to collide once more at 8 p.m. Thursday, October 26.
Streb, a 1997 MacArthur genius grant winner, is a tomboy turned choreographer with a punch -- and plenty of punch lines. Her high-top shoes look like something you could spar in, but her spiked red hair lends her bespectacled face an owlish studiousness. None of this is incongruous in the context of her daredevil New York City-based company. She talked about the piece in her apparatus-jammed Sixth Avenue office.
"We wanted to make a tribute to Evel Knievel," said Streb, who investigates the same problems as Knievel -- impact, velocity and propulsion. Her work has the patterning, spatial and movement characteristics that make it dance, a term that may be too sissy for what she calls "pop actions." "I ask my dancers to do extremely unreasonable things. They approach new equipment very introspectively," she says wryly. "They need to learn to trust the beast." The troupe performs Actionheroes in "a box truss power pocket" designed by a team led by Skip Mercier, who worked with Julie Taymor. "It's an extravagant system to which we attach our bungees. If you're not flying," she shrugs, "what's the point?"