Zeke Keeble of locust
  • Gabriel Bienzycki
  • Zeke Keeble of locust

The intersection between modern dance and hip-hop can be hard to traverse without diluting the energy of both forms. Fortunately Amy O’Neal, Zeke Keeble, and their Seattle-based dance company locust have been able to combine the more lyrical aesthetics of modern movement with the dynamics of funky club dancing (to great effect) in their amazing hour-long performance, Crushed.

Above all else, Crushed is a highly entertaining dance performance. Using a physical vocabulary that draws from disciplines as diverse as pop n' lock and tango, choreographer Amy O’Neal leads the audience through a dream of night spaces, full of pushing, grasping, dance battles and the calculated sexuality of dance floor. Musician and co-creator Zeke Keeble, adds live rhythm and atmosphere, beat-boxing, programming and mixing taught intelligent dance music—heavy on the bass beat and tricked out with beeps and clicks.

But music and dance aren’t enough for locust, to add another layer of complexity the company takes full advantage of projected video that extends the depth of field beyond the stage. At one moment in Crushed a fuzzy video of dancers at the end of a long dark hallway comes into sharp relief onstage as O’Neal and her performers mimic the action on screen. That the movements between screen and stage aren’t completely synchronized causes an amazing elastic tension as background and foreground coalesce and fall apart again and again.

Locust is very adept at creating tension. It’s seen (and heard) again and again in the live accompaniment of Keeble. As he performs, he is able to react to the dancers movements, creating trippy electronic sound effects to match. The end result is that dancers seem electrically charged, sending up swishes of static as their limbs cut through the air.

I can’t presume to say what Crushed is about. Is it the final death vision of an insect? The coma dreams of a once club-hopping hipster? I’m not sure, and frankly it doesn’t matter to me—like all good entertainment Crushed is simply far too engaging to worry about a deeper meaning. Which is not to say that there isn’t one (I’m sure there is), I just don’t know if the performance would be improved by knowing it.

It’s good to see these TBA veterans returning, and you can bet I'll be have my ass in the seats anytime they come to town.