Posted by: Dusty Hoesly
Crushed is an explosive mix of hip-hop and contemporary dance, live beatboxing and sampled music, and video projection showing the same dancers in other contexts. The opening video images of a locust in a farmer’s field are both funny and upsetting: the video is edited to show the locust and then the farmer, cutting back and forth between the two as the farmer runs into the field and crushes the insect, all while musician Zeke Keeble provides live sound effects for each character. Right away we engage several themes in the show: life and death, sensuality and violence, organic and inorganic, sequencing and randomness. The color green dominates the show, appropriately symbolizing nature and new life or inexperience.
Some of the dancing appears as if zombified, the dead reanimated, a hip-hop herky jerk reminiscent of the projected reiterations of the now-living locust that appear on the screen behind the dancers. Their costumes of green hoodies and dark pants resembles the color of the locust, as if they are the locusts brought to life, or as if they are playing the locusts before the farmer’s boot squishes them. Choreographer Amy O’Neal’s work embodies the random movements of the locust in the field as it flits from one spot to another, rubbing its limbs together and turning its head. On screen, headlights illuminate a white wall as various company dancers stand against it (the choice of this backdrop eludes me).
Later, a dance between a man and a woman appears as if they are wrestling, seeming both erotic and violent as they grapple and force each other into various positions. In the dancing violence, I’m reminded that as the farmer killed the bug, so does the bug kill the farm. (I’m probably reading too much from the film into the dance piece, but why else start with those images?) The electronic music resembles house music, and at times sounds like Autechre, layered with Zeke’s beatboxing and occasionally slapping a wooden box or clapping: a layering of the digital with the organic sounds of the human body.
In one intriguing sequence, the projection screen shows the dancers performing their routines in an industrial hallway as if on a security camera. On stage, the dancers reenact the sequence, albeit not exactly at the same time as we see it on screen, so it’s a bit off kilter. They push each other into center stage, pull each other back to the sidelines, deciding who gets the spotlight. It’s a sort of violent interplay, made more arresting because through the video we often see what will happen before it happens on stage. Even when Zeke takes center stage for a musical interlude, he is forced back to his place on the stage’s edge. Perhaps all this staged violence is a reenactment of the farmer killing the locust, representing how we are busy doing our own thing and then we are overtaken by the unexpected, our world turned upside down.
Near the end we see a video of mostly white people dancing in a bar, including the full company. They show bling, dance individually and awkwardly and then together, synchronized. A man leaves for the bathroom to pee and is hit in the head by the door, another act of violence. A man and a woman dance sexually on the floor. Zeke and Amy, standing next to green balloons, sing a song that includes the lines “the feeling of letting go, if only it could always be so.” They dance again and the dancers’ faces are all simultaneously projected on screen in little squares, flitting to the left and right like insect wings. Bright green lights illuminate the audience and the show closes. I have no idea what these last images convey, other than perhaps some repetition of earlier themes, reenactments of scenes from earlier in the piece in a show about reanimation. Locust provides us with the feeling of letting go and gives it to us over and over again, each time exciting and new.