The Setup: This weekend saw the premier of choreographer Jennifer Wood's Destroyed. The End., a darkly comic take on the final days of humanity as embodied by five dancers, including Suchu Dance veterans Shanon Adams, Sarah Leung, Tina Shariffskul, Prudence Sun, and newcomer Somya Gupta. The latest production offers grim imagery and ruthless passages of aggressive movement, but always with a subliminal tongue-in-cheek grin that makes for a surprisingly gleeful experience. The Execution: What's the first thing you do if you've survived the end of the world? If your world belongs to Jennifer Wood, then you grab a boho-chic wardrobe by costume designers Flower and Figaro and a gas mask - in exactly that order. The costumes create a vivid spark of purple coloring against a largely stark landscape of ominous red lighting. Fashion statements asides, this full-length dance work begins with a striking first impression which sees the five dancers circle the space in a hypnotic processional that's as interesting to watch as the larger choreography in the later sequences.
Quintets make for wonderful visual patterns, thanks to the variety of permutations of relationship that can be formed from the odd number. A memorable early segment saw a solo by Tina Shariffskul, her movement a circular vortex of despair, against a backdrop of four gas-masked bodies hitting sharp gesture-based combinations. It was a strong choreographic match to the show's thematic content, of individual struggle in the middle of a communal catastrophe.
The end of the world might seem like a singular exploration, but Destroyed offers a rich variety of movement quality, just as deep and varied as the relationships between the five characters, presumably the last five members of the human race. Their bodies are at times broken and spasmodic, at times lithe and fluid. They are bewildered and confused, supportive and comforting in the group's inevitable demise, but then aggressive and combative. Resources are scarce after all, but survival of the fittest is a concept that doesn't bare much weight when the days of a whole species are numbered.
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The narrative is full of memorable moments, which is due in large part to the strong partnering among the cast. There was a lovely solo by Somya Gupta in the latter half, which made nice use of her quiet and elegant presence. The soft quality of her dancing took a sharp turn as she rushed headlong into a series of effortlessly handled lifts. The sequence ended in more unexpected, but greatly appreciated comedy. And what might be so funny? Well, try moving an oblong object through a door frame, and then go see the show.
The Verdict: Destroyed. The End. offers a finite glimpse of humankind. There are no survivors here, but Wood's wonderfully imaginative doom-scape is anything but morose. There is no joy in suffering, but Destroyed is a reminder of the importance of a good laugh, even in the most extreme of circumstances. There is light even in the darkest of circumstances, and these intense scenarios are smartly realized by the Suchu quintet. Their performances are marked not just be the obvious commitment to the intricate movement, but by the layered cadences and tight-wire balance between sane reasoning and insane impulses.
And speaking of The End., this very much be the end of an era, however short it may turn out to be. Before the show, Wood announced that the owners of the building that currently houses the company on Ella Boulevard will soon tear down the premises. Suchu Dance will be without a home effective this September. In case this is the last full-length Suchu show at the present location, it might behoove everyone to see Destroyed this weekend. Wood's work has really come to fully inhabit the capabilities of this cozy white box theater. It's her best work in the space, and an immersive experience that has a chilling, lasting affect.
Destroyed. The End. runs through April 18 at Suchu Dance, 3480 Ella.