work blog about search
 
 

One Extraordinary Day

It's been raining pretty constantly in London for the past couple of months, but yesterday the clouds parted and let the sun shine down on the city, as if they knew that something kinda special was going on.

An American dance company, the STREB Extreme Action Company, had lined up a series of seven separate performances across the capital, Surprises STREB: One Extraordinary Day, each of them taking place in and around iconic city spaces. The locations and times of each performance were only released on the day via Twitter and Facebook, and only at the end of each preceding piece.

The first one, Waterfall, kicked off at 7.30am, with a series of dancers bungee jumping off the Millennium Bridge.

That's rather an early start for a Sunday, but we made it along to their next piece, Sky Walk, which featured the company's 62 year old founder, Elizabeth Streb, and two male dancers, walking down the vertical glass face of City Hall.

Creating the same kind of awe as Royal De Luxe's Sultan's Elephant piece from 2006, the dancers slowly appeared over the top of City Hall at 10am, to a soundtrack by David Van Tieghem (you can hear samples for each piece on the Surprises website). Like a trio of otherworldly superbeings glinting in the sun, they gradually stepped their way down the facade of the building, straining against the ropes that kept them from plunging downward. It was a bit like the solemn sentinels from Antony Gormley's Event Horizon had suddenly come alive, and were making first contact. Occasionally their shoes slipped on the glass, and you could see the fear and excitement dancing across their faces as they regained their footing and composure, while the crowd whooped with glee.

It was an absolute pleasure to watch.

The dancers and the crowd then moved northwards to Paternoster Square for the next piece, Turn. From there they made their way west to Trafalgar Square, where they performed the piece Ascension in front of the National Gallery. We caught up with them as they moved across the square to the base of Nelson's Column, for the piece Human Fountain, which started at 5.30, with the rain which would have meant the cancellation of the show thankfully staying away. In this piece, a four-storey scaffold had been erected, and the performers dove off it from heights of three metres, six metres, and ten and a half metres, to land face first on a worryingly slim crash-mat below.

It was spellbinding to watch the eagerness and joy as they hurled themselves off the scaffold into the air, their movements choreographed to perfection to prevent them crashing into each other in the air or on the mat below.

From Trafalgar Square they sped on to the Southbank, to perform their last two pieces, Speed Angels, and Human Eye, the latter of those seeing the dancers entwining themselves amongst the spokes of the London Eye.

All in all the day was a breathtaking mix of dance, art, music and circus. Put together under the banner of the Lift Festival, and the London 2012 Festival, the day was a great example of how the much-heralded Cultural Olympiad could actually be something quite brilliant.

Free performances from incredible performers who genuinely inspire awe and joy. That's no bad thing. And of course, it didn't hurt that the weather played along too.

All images © Alistair Hall

posted: 16 July 2012
categories: Events
 
recommended reading

Ace Jet 170
One of the finest individual design blogs (it’s been going as long as we have!) from Irish designer Richard Weston. Covering found type, print and stuff.

Casual Optimist
If you want to know what’s happening in the world of book cover design, keep an eye on this excellent blog by Dan Wagstaff.

Creative Review
Covering design and advertising, CR has been running since 1981, under the editorship of Patrick Burgoyne since 1999. Essential reading.

Daniel Gray
Dan writes a column in Creative Review, and this is his consistently entertaining blog about design and suchlike.

Eye Magazine
The best graphic design magazine out there, from editor John L. Walters and art director Simon Esterson.

Flat File
A fantastic collection of online publications based on pieces from the Herb Lubalin Study Centre.

Grafik
Grafik is the brilliant online magazine about all things graphic design, from writers Caroline Roberts and Angharad Lewis.

Justin’s Amazing World
Justin Hobson, of Fenner Paper, is a bona fide expert on paper & print, and a charming chap to boot. His blog features in-depth analysis of the projects he’s worked on, including a few of our own.

Kottke.org
One of the oldest blogs on the web. And one of the best.

Lecture in Progress
An invaluable collection of wisdom from a range of graphic designers, illustrators, photographers et al. From the team that brought you It’s Nice That.

Spitalfields Life
The anonymous Gentle Author of this wonderful blog has promised to write 10,000 stories about the life & culture of Spitalfields in east London, writing one story each and every day.

St Bride Library
The St Bride Library houses one of the world’s finest collection of books (& related objects) about printing and design. It also hosts unmissable design talks and events.

Styling and Salvage
Rupert Blanchard is a mate of ours, and makes great furniture. This blog covers his projects, interests, and life in Margate.

Subtraction.com
Brooklyn-based designer Khoi Vinh has been writing insightfully about design, technology and culture since the turn of the millennium.

The Ride Journal
A glorious mix of the very best writing and illustration about all types of cycling. On an indefinite break now, but you can download past issues for free.