Human beings cannot fly. This is, relatively speaking, a commonly held truth. Yet Brooklyn-based choreographer Elizabeth Streb is not so sure. Her whole career can be seen as a pursuit of flight, though not in the way birds do it. Her work, first as a dancer and now as the head of her own dance company, is all about finding new forms of movement. She goes so far as to call it “action” much more frequently than “dance.” Her performers fling themselves about the stage, dodging I-beams and jumping from enormous wheels. It’s quite the sight.
Presumably the sheer visual triumph of these performances was at least a major part of what inspired Catherine Gund to make Born to Fly. The film is pretty straightforward, following the mold set by many an artistic profile in recent years. Attention is divided between Streb’s biography and her current work in an effort to build as full a portrait as possible. The choreographer is very open about her early days as an aspiring artist, traveling cross-country to take classes and find herself. She began with wide open ambition and voluminous, lengthy hair. Now she has narrowed her focus and become much more interested in blunt physicality. Her style has followed suit, now characterized by black clothes and a short, erect punk haircut.