Throughout my career, my goal has always been to create a motion lexicon that all humans recognize. I call it PopAction and it exists now, not only on stage as a fusion of dance, sports, gymnastics, and the American circus – but also in a place, SLAM, where an exchange of human acts takes place everyday enriching my vocabulary and hopefully expanding the lives of my company’s co-conspirators, the audience.    My aim is to create work that speaks of and to intrinsic human potential. Let’s reinvent the radical art of culture, let’s imagine art entwined with the culture of the street, the surprising quotidian event; art that is as accidental an occurrence in people’s everyday urban lives as the parks, the sidewalks, the trees and the corner deli. Each and every time I work at SLAM, I ask, “how can movement elicit sorrow, fright, humor, excitement and the desire to live a better life – all at once.” I want my work to make all of us want to do more, go further. I believe that action – on the stage and in the street – is the most powerful force on earth. I believe it can cure sad hearts and sated minds, and I am trying to prove this point.

Who is Elizabeth Streb?

MacArthur “Genius” Award-winner, Elizabeth Streb has dived through glass, allowed a ton of dirt to fall on her head, walked down (the outside of) London’s City Hall, and set herself on fire, among other feats of extreme action. Her popular book, STREB: How to Become an Extreme Action Hero (Feminist Press), was made into a hit documentary, Born to Fly directed by Catherine Gund (Aubin Pictures), which premiered at SXSW and received an extended run at The Film Forum in New York City in 2014. Streb founded the STREB Extreme Action Company in 1979. In 2003, she established SLAM, the STREB Lab for Action Mechanics, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. SLAM’s garage doors are always open: anyone and everyone can come in, watch rehearsals, take classes, and learn to fly.

Elizabeth Streb was invited to present a TED Talk (‘My Quest To Defy Gravity and Fly’) at TED 2018: THE AGE OF AMAZEMENT as a mainstage speaker. She has been a featured speaker presenting her keynote lectures at such places as the Rubin Museum of Art (in conversation with Dr. John W. Krakauer), TEDxMET, the Institute for Technology and Education (ISTE), POPTECH, the Institute of Contemporary Art (in conversation with physicist, Brian Greene), The Brooklyn Museum of Art (in conversation with author A.M. Homes), the National Performing Arts Convention, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), the Penny Stamps Speaker Series at the University of Michigan, Chorus America, the University of Utah, and as a Caroline Werner Gannett Project speaker in Rochester NY, and gave the 2019 Commencement Speech at Otis College for Arts and Design among others. Her essay, “Unreasonable Movement, Unreasonable Thought” is featured in the book Are the Arts Essential? published by NYU press in 2022. 

Streb was profiled by Alec Wilkinson in an extended essay “Rough and Tumble: Elizabeth Streb’s daredevil dances” for the New Yorker magazine in June 2015, was featured in the Smithsonian Magazine (“The New American Circus”), and in 2019 was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal

Streb received a Doris Duke Artist Award in 2013, and a USA Fellowship in 2020. She holds a Master of Arts in Humanities and Social Thought from New York University, a Bachelor of Science in Modern Dance from SUNY Brockport, and honorary doctorates from SUNY Brockport, Rhode Island College and Otis College of Art and Design.  Streb has received numerous other awards and fellowships including the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1987; a Brandeis Creative Arts Award in 1991; two New York Dance and Performance Awards (Bessie Awards), in 1988 and 1999 for her “sustained investigation of movement;” and over 35 years of on-going support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  In 2009, Streb was the Danspace Project Honoree.  She served on Mayor Bloomberg’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission and was a member on the boards of the Jerome Foundation (2012-2021) and the Camargo Foundation (2013-2017). 

Major commissions for choreography include: Lincoln Center Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center, MOCA, LA Temporary Contemporary, the Whitney Museum of Art, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, the Park Avenue Armory, London 2012, the Cultural Olympiad for the Summer Games, CityLab Paris 2018, the opening of Bloomberg’s new headquarters in London, Musée D’Orsay, the re-opening of the Théâtre du Châtelet, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi. 

Born to Fly aired on PBS on May 11, 2014 and is currently available on iTunes. OXD, directed by Craig Lowy, which follows STREB at the 2012 London Olympics and the two years prior, premiered at the IFC Center in New York City on February 2, 2016. Streb and her company have also been featured in PopAction by Michael Blackwood; on PBS’s In The Life and Great Performances; CBS’s The Late Show with David Letterman, Sunday Morning and This Morning; BBC World News; CNN’s Weekend Today and Larry King Live, Business Insider; MTV; and on the National Public Radio shows Studio 360 and Science Friday, among others. 

Elizabeth Streb at TED2018: The Age of Amazement

Elizabeth Streb: My quest to defy gravity and fly

Over the course of her fearless career, extreme action specialist Elizabeth Streb has pushed the limits of the human body. She’s jumped through broken glass, toppled from great heights and built gizmos to provide a boost along the way. Backed by footage of her work, Streb reflects on her lifelong quest to defy gravity and fly the only way a human can — by mastering the landing. 

How to Become An Extreme Action Hero, by Elizabeth Streb

Elizabeth Streb has been testing the potential of the human body since childhood. Can she fly? Can she run up walls? Can she break through glass? How fast can she go? With clarity and humor—and with a world-class dance troupe called STREB—she continues to investigate what real movement is and has come to these conclusions: It’s off the ground! It creates impact! It hurts trying to stop it!

In this pathbreaking book, Streb combines memoir and analysis to convey how she became an extreme action dancer/choreographer, developing a form of movement that’s more NASCAR than modern dance; more boxing than ballet.

“[A] dizzying, inspirational self-help memoir . . . Streb’s riveting prose should provoke and inspire philosophy students, dancers, and athletes of all kinds.” —Publishers Weekly

Foreword by Anna Deavere Smith
Introduction by Peggy Phelan

Available for purchase at SLAM ( or 718.384.6491), on and at

Interview with Laura Flanders about How to Become an Extreme Action Hero
Press Reviews

Infinite Body review by Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Arts journalist since 1976. Scroll down to read the review.

Grantmakers in the Arts review by John E. McGuirk, the director of the Performing Arts Program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Click here to read the review.

Amazon Book Review from Publishers Weekly including “Streb [as] a glorious acrobatic adventure.” The Guardian. Click here to read the review.

Bomb Magazine article from A.M. Homes with an Interview between A.M. Homes and Elizabeth Streb! Click here to read the review.

"Her new book explores a lifetime of thought and experience with extreme action—real moves—and the conditions that make them possible: body, space, time, motion..."
"Fearlessness and intelligence combined—that is what makes Elizabeth Streb's work so potent and beautiful."
". . . it’s incredibly well written, blazingly articulate, brimming with ideas regarding space, time, movement—as if Martha Graham and Albert Einstein had a love child and named her Streb; like Batman and Robin gave her the secret code to how to explain all that happens behind KAPOW, SPLAT, and ZOWIE."


Elizabeth Streb and STREB Extreme Action form a motley troupe of flyers and crashers. Propelled by Streb’s edict that “anything too safe is not action,” these daredevils challenge the assumptions of art, aging, injury, gender, and human possibility. BORN TO FLY: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity traces the evolution of Elizabeth Streb’s movement philosophy as she pushes herself and her performers from the ground to the sky. Revealing the passions behind the dancers’ bruises and broken noses, BORN TO FLY offers a breathtaking tale about the necessity of art, inspiring audiences hungry for a more tactile and fierce existence.

Are the Arts Essential?


Elizabeth Streb is featured in this timely and kaleidoscopic reflection on the importance of the arts in our society.

In the midst of a devastating pandemic, as theaters, art galleries and museums, dance stages and concert halls shuttered their doors indefinitely and institutional funding for entertainment and culture evaporated almost overnight, a cohort of highly acclaimed scholars, artists, cultural critics, and a journalist sat down to ponder an urgent question: Are the arts essential?

Across twenty-five highly engaging essays, these luminaries join together to address this question and to share their own ideas, experiences, and ambitions for the arts.

What answer does this convocation offer to Are the Arts Essential? A resounding Yes.

Speaking Engagements

Upcoming Events

Skirball Tapes: Elizabeth Streb
NYU Skirball’s new interview series with luminaries and game-changers, artists, curators, organizers, and creative world-makers, hosted by Catharine Stimpson.
March 14, 2022

Select Previous Appearances

Pillow Talk
Moderated by Jacob’s Pillow Scholar Maura Keefe.
August 22, 2021

Jacob’s Pillow Post Show Talk
Elizabeth Streb, Associate Artistic Director Cassandre Joseph, and Technical Director/Emcee/DJ Zaire Baptiste, in conversation with Jacob’s Pillow Scholar-in-Residence Maura Keefe
August 18, 2021

KCRW Berlin
Lincoln Center, White Light Festival, Post Performance Discussion
with Libby McDonnell and Elizabeth Streb
Thursday, Oct 24 @ 7:30pm, 2019

NYU (14 University Place)
Thursday, November 14th @ 6:00pm

The Power of Practice and Learning to Fly 
Elizabeth Streb and Dr. John W. Krakauer
February 9, 2019

Tanz in August
Meeting of Minds with Elizabeth Streb
August 12, 2018 @ 5pm (Bibliothek im August)

June 14 – 15, 2018

SITI Thought Center presents Anne Bogart & Elizabeth Streb
September 27, 2017

2017 TCG National Conference
June 9, 2017

Wonderwater Reading
March 18, 2017

The Genius Dialogues

PopAction Master Class at Antioch College
June 10, 2016

Imagining a Future – Shakespeare, a Conversation with Fiona Shaw at the Kennedy Center 
June 3, 2016 @7:30pm

Global Cultural District Network Panel at BAM
May 24, 2016

“How to Become an Extreme Action Heroine” at NYU’s Women’s Leadership Forum
May 13, 2016

Talking Duets #2
March 19, 2016

BricFlix: Women Behind the Lens
March 9, 2016

Gravity is a Dancer’s Best Friend

APAP Annual Awards Ceremony &  Meet the Artist Salon
January 18, 2015

Global Cities at the Crossroads: Commerce, Art, and the Captivating Power of Place
November 19, 2015

Molissa Fenley Book Party
November 15, 2015

One Extraordinary Day, a film by Craig Lowy—World Premiere
November 14, 2015

Lois Greenfield: Photographing Dancers in Motion
November 11, 2015

Mountain Film Festival
May 22-25, 2015

Deconstructing Genius
March 4, 2015 at 8:15pm

Penny Stamps Speaker Series
February 12, 2015

National Arts Marketing Project Conference
Keynote Address
November 9, 2014

DRAMA CLUB: SEAGULLS w/ Public Theatre
October 26, 2014

Risky Talking
October 24, 2014

The Municipal Arts Society of New York (MAS Panel guest)
October 23, 2014

John Jay College (lecture)
October 16, 2014

PEN Awards (judge)
September 29, 2014

Born to Fly Q & A’s

Antioch College
June 9, 2016

Virginia Tech Center for the Arts
September 30, 2015

Jacob’s Pillow
July 5, 2015

Hammer Museum
September 25, 2014

Image Out
October 12, 2014

October 18, 2014

Granoff Center at Brown
October 20, 2014

Jacob Burns Film Center
October 28, 2014

Houston Cinema Arts Festival
November 15, 2014

Wexner Center for the Arts
January 23, 2015

Dance on Camera at Lincoln Center
February 1, 2015

Athena Film Festival
February 8, 2015

To Book ELIZABETH STREB for Speaking Engagements

Shannon Reynolds