Fort Worth — “Remember guys, be gentle,” choreographer Josh Peugh tells his dancers as they take their places at a rehearsal on a sunny February weekend. The seven dancers, including Peugh, begin a series of separate yet interlaced phrases consisting of hand gestures and upper body movements that pitch and arch with the music. Thus begins the first section of Peugh’s new work Marshmallow.
Marshmallow is one of three new works Dark Circles Contemporary Dance (U.S.) will perform at its spring show, White Day, this Thursday through Saturday at the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre in Fort Worth. The show is inspired by the Japanese and Korean holiday White Day, similar to Valentine’s Day, which is celebrated on March 14. Marshmallow is influenced by the fantasy and well-observed humanity of Japanese animé and includes music from the Studio Ghibli film Howl’s Moving Castle by Japanese animation composer Joe Hisaishi.
As the dancers become more adventurous in their movement they start playing with level changes, speed and locomotion. Peugh’s signature wind-up movement and pretzel-like floor work is present throughout the piece. As the momentum picks up, each dancer fights to sustain the gentleness Peugh is looking for. The dancers accomplish this by filling their bodies with tension and quickly releasing it. Not such an easy task. When the music changes the dancers slowly walk to the front of the stage, pull a marshmallow out of their pocket and eat it. In this moment viewers may be unsure whether to laugh or not. “I definitely want people to laugh when they find something funny,” Peugh says. His comedic flair also pops up in the waltzing section in which men twirl around with the ladies positioned on their shoulders backwards, pelvis and faces inches apart.
Peugh’s duet with company member Jennifer Mabus showcases his softer more romantic tendencies. The couple uses different body parts, including their heads, chests, knees and feet to initiate movement and propel themselves in different directions. The second part of the piece entitled White Day will feature music by Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and will look at the more intimate and complicated side of the lovers’ holiday.
Afterwards Peugh asks his dancers to tell him what worked and what didn’t. They review the waltzing section where the spacing got a little funky as well as the trio involving Peugh, Jesse Castañeda and Dexter Green. It is obvious Peugh has a clear vision when he says things like, “Don’t collapse in the back cause it kills the energy” and “It should feel like you are pulling the bones of your toes apart.” Peugh’s calm and eloquent tone made for a very positive and focused work environment.
Rounding out the program is a new work from guest choreographer Louis Acquisto called Nemesis Variations. Acquisto is an alumnus of Southern Methodist University and a former dancer with New York City’s Amy Marshall Dance Company. Acquistro and Peugh both have a penchant for gestural phrasing and knee-bruising floor work, but that is where their similarities end. Where Peugh’s Marshmallow feels like a marathon that builds momentum and leaves viewers feeling satisfied, Nemesis Variations feels more like a sprint that leaves viewers breathless. Acquisto’s use of repetition and retrograde adds an obsessive quality to the dancers movement whether it’s fast or slow. And with a timer projected on the background notifying the audience how much time the dancers have left, it’s impossible not to feel stressed. With a grin Acquisto says that is exactly what he is going for. He wants the audience to feel anxious and apprehensive while watching the piece. Get ready!
» Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dancer in Dallas. Visit her blog at http://www.kddance.wordpress.com.