A smashing new combination

Elizabeth Streb offers new perspectives on the link between science and art

Adrienne Baker

People have always found beauty in science, from the music of the spheres to the dance of numbers across a blackboard. This week however, a conference at the University takes the correspondence to a whole new level.

The department of theatre arts and dance and the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science are hosting a workshop on biomechanics and dance Friday. The conference is bringing many world-renowned scientists to campus as well as a dancer who defies conventional movement.

Elizabeth Streb is a dancer and choreographer who strives to combine dance, athletics, extreme sports and stunt work into a form of artistic movement that tests the mechanical limits of the human body. She calls it “POPACTION.”

If the language of dance is about space and energy, it is fair to say Streb exploits that language in ways most would not imagine. Crashing through panes of glass is just one example.

“What she does is extremely sophisticated. It is the kind of logic of movement formalists use, in abstract work.” said Linda Shapiro, from the department of theatre arts and dance. “It is wonderful to have our students exposed to someone who is doing work that is really different from what anyone else is doing.”

Streb will kick off the conference Friday with her lecture titled “Outer Limits: Performing Action Movement Magic.” She has been teaching a series of classes on dance history, philosophy and technique since Tuesday.

The workshop is bringing scientists with expertise in physics, biomechanics of movement and other scholars to the University to study, discuss and celebrate how science and dance intertwine. Mimi Koehl, a specialist in biomechanics at the University of California-Berkeley; Melissa Gross, a specialist in movement dynamics from the University of Michigan; Jurgen Konczak, a professor of kinesiology and director of the Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory at the University of Minnesota and several others will lecture throughout the day Saturday.

Streb’s risky work is being used as a catalyst for a historic meeting of science and art that is likely to be an engaging and unconventional collaboration of the humanities.

Elizabeth Streb lecture

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Barbara Barker Center for Dance, 500 21st Ave. S., Minneapolis

Cost: Free

Contact: (612) 624-4008.