The Body, The Mind, and The Power of Risk

     My name is Natalie Ancona and I am a new intern at Aubin Pictures. I am from Portland, Oregon, where I live in a residential neighborhood five minutes from downtown and where everyone seems to know each other. As many New Yorkers started out, I am throwing myself into this city without any knowledge of where I am or how to be an adult. I am most definitely outside of my comfort zone, and I am by myself. But I know from experience and copious amounts of advice that great strides only come from moments of discomfort and fear. I think this parallels Elizabeth Streb’s statement: “Anything that’s too safe is not action.” So perhaps this summer I’ll be an action hero.

My sister, Olivia Ancona.   Photo by Richard Termine. 

My sister, Olivia Ancona. 

Photo by Richard Termine. 

     My sister is a professional dancer. She went to Juilliard and now lives in Tel Aviv working with experimental choreographers to develop new genres of movement. I envy my sister sometimes. She found a way to devote her life to sensation and power. Although my intellectual passions do make me feel powerful, I don’t think anyone can deny the exhilaration that comes from using the body and mind simultaneously. And the most enduring physical highs come from achievements that are unexpected or seemingly unattainable. This is why people run marathons, join the army, or play in tournaments. This is why people do hallucinogens that change the way they feel and see. People like to experience what they haven’t before; they like to see what the mind and body are capable of.

     Elizabeth Streb does just that. She wants to prove to herself, and to others what the mind can force the body to do. This reminds me of my cross country days. I only lasted two years on the team because although running requires great athleticism, I could not master the mental side of the sport. There were many races where I failed to accept that my legs could keep pace or move faster. However, there were a few times that my mind was strong enough to support my body, and the high that came from those personal records resonated. Once I accomplished one goal, I was able to move forward and demand more of myself. I was forced to look at my accomplishments as significant but not limited. Each goal could be surpassed by another.

STREB Extreme Action Company in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.    Photo by Scott Suchman. 

STREB Extreme Action Company in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  

Photo by Scott Suchman. 

     I channeled this drive into what I find to be slightly more enjoyable activities. For me it was my education and lacrosse; for my sister and Elizabeth Streb it is dance and movement. Watching the footage from HERO reminds me of why people try to expand their capacity to act. The dancers are physically falling on their faces. If this is the performance, imagine the rehearsals. Regardless, they look strong. This is why both Streb’s work and Cat Gund’s documentary draw people in. It inspires people to let go of fear in order to gain control over their body. It inspires people to find what makes them strong. 

     Additionally, Elizabeth Streb shows the equality in strength among men and women. There is no difference between what the males and females in her company can do. Streb’s mental fortitude results in her physical strength, and the strength of all of her dancers. Her athletic mind produces spectacular physical feats, which instills a sense of confidence in her dancers as well as her audience. STREB solidifies the value of risk-taking, which can and should be implemented into all aspects of life.

STREB performs in front of London's Tower Bridge. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty 

STREB performs in front of London's Tower Bridge. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty 

     I can see why Cat Gund decided to make a documentary about Elizabeth Streb and her work. It’s hard not to feel like leaping off a bunk bed after watching the trailer. This is my favorite part about documentaries; by the end, they make you want to do something. I mean, documentary is the only format that would make me passionate about a topic like Lyme disease. Watching clips from HERO gets me excited about my own life. Navigating through a new environment on my own is a risk that I’m taking. Aubin will be part of this challenge. But I know that after I throw myself to the ground and fall on my face a few times, I will be capable of more than I was before. I imagine many others will be inspired in the same way from watching this documentary.