Smoke fills the dark space as six dancers emerge from the side, holding tight and looking into the distance. They disappear, return from another side, but this time there are only five—then four, then three—until only one is left.
Thus begins James Gregg’s Boonflood, USA, a premiere performed by Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Every once in a while the space goes completely dark; black and gray patterns for the women’s dresses, gray for the men’s.
To set the mood, Joshua L. Peugh pounds his chest, amplifying the sounds of a heartbeat, louder and louder. The other dancers return in chaotic formation—pulling each other, leaning on a shoulder, tumbling or sitting on the body of another in a back-bend. The connection is intense, made all the more so by how they lock eyes and how often they wrap their bodies together, lurch and twist.
If strange movements could carry Boonflood, it would be a riveting work, but as it is, it is cerebral but disjointed.
In Critics of the Morning Song, Peugh (the company’s artistic director and chief choreographer) displays his gift for off-kilter comedy. Clad in suspenders and high-waisted trousers or ruffled dress, he and Alex Karigan Farrior make a delightful match, giddy and tender at one moment, ready to go at each other’s throats in another.
Set to different renditions of “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” the dance switches mood as quickly as a thunderclap. In one zany episode, Farrior crawls to escape the looming form of Peugh, while he keeps grabbing her by the leg and pulling her back. At last she manages to crawl to freedom.
In another sequence she screams as he grabs her by the ankle while she hops on one leg. For all the pushing and shoving and fingers jabbed into a lover’s mouth, there are many sweet moments and overall a jaunty air.
Like much of Peugh’s work this is wacky and whimsical and shows his gift for constant surprise. He once said that he goes for the understated and that there is “too much physically loud dance today.” Critics is not loud, just nutty—and wonderful.
Think of a house of cards carefully stacked and at any moment about to collapse, and that was the image given in Mr. Peugh’s You and Me. Dancers are forever dangerously tilted at all angles, leaning into each other, held aloft in plank formation. They slump backward, hop, form a bridge, crawl backwards, and stack up in one unruly mess.
The music is an oddball selection of “Super Mario Bros.,” a requiem, “Walking with Elephants” and several works by Alva Noto. Despite the overall strangeness of the goings-on, movement flows seamlessly, creating one striking image after another and conveying that at the brink of disaster, trust reigns.
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.
» To view a slideshow of Robert Hart's photos of the performance, click the slideshow icon in the floating menu at bottom left of your screen.