‘Color of Reality’

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Just watch.

On a lawn here at the Aspen Ideas Festival, covered in Alexa Meade’s paint, Jon Boogz and Lil Buck performed this piece for a rapt audience earlier this afternoon. They spoke afterward about some of the choices they made in the construction of the piece, like painting the walls of the set in calming shades of blue, cream, and purple, conjuring the image of a bright blue sky. The dreamy quality of the set makes the harshness of the outside world in the piece’s second half more vivid.

Here in Aspen, in that second half, Jon Boogz and Lil Buck danced into the crowd, searching the faces of audience members as the performance came to its grim conclusion. Unlike in the video, when they left the set, they weren’t on a cold gray street with chain-link fences and indifferent strangers, they were on a bright green lawn underneath a vivid blue sky, ringed by mountains on every side. The contrast was somehow even more lurid in this setting, the ending to the dance even more grim.

For a moment, though, dwell in the beauty of that first half. Imagine Buck’s balletic, otherworldly jookin going on forever, his body rippling like a flag on a single foot, en pointe.