It ain't pretty but it's real" sort of sums up Elizabeth Streb's aesthetic. Some say that what she does isn't even dance, that it's too purely athletic, too little emotional or intellectual. But if you're the kind of person who doesn't like dance because you don't know what it means, you may go for Streb's Ringside in a big way. The props she uses recall gymnastics: a sort of jungle gym at the then State of Illinois Center for "Dancing in the State" in 1991, and on other occasions stationary walls, portable walls, glass walls, mats, harnesses for flying. Her dancers throw themselves against or clamber up barriers of all kinds or leap like championship divers onto solid ground; they're never accompanied by music (which Streb has characterized as the "enemy of dance") but instead by the performers' grunts, shouts, and thuds. Watching Ringside, you can't help but think of boot camp, Nike "Just Do It" ads, and crazed 11-year-olds. In fact, part of the evening called "PopAction" is made up of KidAction, which for Ringside's performance here, being presented by Performing Arts Chicago, will use local kids from the McCormick Boys and Girls Club. Streb's choreography would come off as punishing if the performers weren't so keen on it--they remind me of my daughter wearing the palms of her hands raw in her efforts to master the monkey bars. Friday and Saturday at 8 at the Skyline Stage, Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand; $30-$35. Call 722-5463 or 663-1628 for tickets and info.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lois Greenfield.