It’s a surprisingly sunny Sunday morning and people across London begin to venture out into this unexpectedly dry day. Millennium bridge, a place that is now fairly everyday, seems to be moving. Red figures bounce below it. What could it be? Oh yes, it’s the phenomenal STREB Extreme Action Company. And they’ve only just begun.
As part of the London 2012, and LIFT Festivals, commissioned by the Mayor of London, this group of dancers, acrobats, and sportsmen invaded London’s landmarks and put on a show unlike any other. Founded by Elizabeth Streb in 1985, the company explores the dynamics of performance and the ability of the human body, pushing performers to the limits of what should be possible and creating incredible scenes of art.
Their One Extraordinary Day saw them travelling across London, starting at the Millennium Bridge where the dancers bungee jumped off the structure to provide a unique, red waterfall that cascaded towards the river. The Sky Walk involved Elizabeth Streb herself, accompanied by two dancers, walking down the side of city hall in a sci-fi, bizarre but beautiful way, altering the London view with a slightly eerie presence.
Just a few hours later, the troupe were in Trafalgar Square, where I saw them perform two of the most breathtaking pieces of performance I have ever seen. After some technical issues with the stage, their first piece was Ascension – involving eight dancers on a rotating ladder, they appeared to defy gravity as they climbed, spun, and vaulted through the rungs in a display of daring and skill. As the stage was fixed, they returned to the base of Nelson’s Column for the Human Waterfall. Scaffolding forms three platforms, the highest reaching some 9metres, and the performers, with discipline and concentration, arrange themselves across the boards. And then fling themselves off it. Yes, that’s right, they jump and freefall onto the crash mat below, giving themselves as many seconds as they dare to perform some mid-air acrobatics, before falling flat onto their faces or backs.
Their incredible finale was the Human Eye – the crazy dancers were suspended on spokes of the London Eye and performed more mid-air antics as the sun went down. These feats brought together, extreme sports, dance, acrobatics, and an essence of clown in a brilliantly diverse day. In a city bracing itself for the biggest event of the year, STREB has set the ball rolling for the summer of incredible talent.