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Dance Review

Streb: Kiss the Air!

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Streb: Kiss the Air!
Photo Source: Stephanie Berger
How can something as exciting as the exhilarating athleticism put forth by the Streb Extreme Action Company be at the same time maddeningly boring to watch? The troupe of daredevil movement artists opens its hourlong show "Kiss the Air!" by soaring full speed while suspended from altitudinous zip lines across the vast expanse of the Park Avenue Armory's drill hall, at the end of which they crash face first into a rubber wall.

Seeming to delight in pushing their bodies to physical extremes, they spend the rest of the performance wowing us with breathtaking feats of courage and gymnastic skill. They dangle from and shape themselves around high, swinging hoops; jump onto seesawlike springboards that propel them way up and forward through the space, where they grand jeté to glorious effect; or strap themselves into harnesses with attached cables that their partners use to "fly" them around in all directions. They hang, stand, and lie on and underneath a large rotating metal ladder, dive headfirst from perilous heights in frighteningly close formations to belly-flop onto mattresses below, and engage in all kinds of acrobatics while suspended from bungee cords atop a shallow pool of water. (If you sit in the front row, expect to get wet, as the provided ponchos don't fully protect against the performers' mischievous splashing.)

Though composed of thrilling maneuvers impressively executed by nine primary male and female dancers (billed as "action engineers"), under the direction of Elizabeth Streb (billed as "action architect and choreographer") the show feels more like a gymnastic exhibition than a dance concert. Viewers are encouraged to whoop and holler, to text and tweet, and to take photos and video and post them immediately on Facebook and YouTube.

Because the show is so flatly structured, one almost needs to participate in these other activities in order to remain engaged in the event. Slowly paced and repetitive, the performance is divided into distinct episodes corresponding to each apparatus that the performers play on. It proceeds as a series of tricks, repeated over and over with no choreographic craft employed to create flow, phrasing, rhythm, or any kind of food for thought. Although music plays in the background, the movements are timed largely in response to the dancers' shouts to one another or emcee Zaire Baptiste's boot camp–style commands. The event is an undeniably unique display of physical daring, but is it dance? Don't ask.

Presented by and at Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Ave., NYC. Dec. 14–22. Tue.–Sat., 7 p.m.; Wed. and Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (212) 933-5812 or www.armoryonpark.org.

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