Fort Worth — It has been a whirlwind summer for choreographer Joshua L. Peugh and his band of beautiful misfits also known as Dark Circles Contemporary Dance (DCCD) USA. Over the last three months DCCD has taken part in numerous local and national festivals, including Dance Source Houston’s Barnstorm DanceFest, Dallas DanceFest, The Dance Gallery Festival in New York as well as Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival’s Inside/Out Performance Series, a monumental first for the company. “I’m still processing what happened that afternoon,” Peugh says. “The wind was blowing and the sun was setting and I looked around the stage at the generous artists I get to laugh, cry, struggle and create with, and I felt completely full.”
Independently, Peugh travelled to Seattle to create a new work, Short Acts on the Heartstrings, on former Pacific Northwest Ballet member Oliver Wever’s company, Whim W’Him. Peugh also spent time this summer in Tulsa where his signature work Slump (2012) made its Oklahoma premiere with Tulsa Ballet II. When not travelling, DCCD is hard at work in the studio preparing for their upcoming Fall Series: Aimless Young Man, Oct 9-11, at Texas Christian University’s Erma Lowe Hall, Studio Theatre in Fort Worth. Peugh will be presenting two new works, Aimless Young Man and It’s A Boy, which I got to see the company rehearse at Preston Center Dance in Dallas two weeks ago.
An exuberant display of compulsive gesturing, topsy turvy partnering skills, knee bruising floor work and primitive posturing, Aimless Young Man contains all our favorite Peugh mannerisms performed at super high speed much to viewers delight.
“Aimless Young Man is my mediation on the struggle young men have finding or following their paths. It has become a lot more than that. The dancers have brought out new colors in the questions we are fighting with. Why choose martyrdom, why fight? How can we be extraordinary and why do we feel the need to be?” At times the work resembles a circus spectacle with David Cross juggling across the floor and the section where the whole company stands in a semi-circle while an individual performs their idea of a trick, i.e. continuous body rotations and contorted body shapes. Other sections appear more militant with sharp body movements and rigid formations. These wonderfully manic sections are balanced with moments of stillness and isolated gesturing such as rhythmic chest smacks.
On the other side of the spectrum is It’s A Boy, a contemplative work in which Peugh, Cross, Kelsey Rohr and Alex Karigan Farrior sport Tuxedo shirts and coat tails as they explore their inner child with the help of four unassuming canes. In Kelsey Rohr’s solo her attention is centered on the path of her cane as she methodically skims it down the top of her arm till it is resting horizontal on the top of her hands. Your eyes continue to follow the cane as Rohr outlines her body, stopping periodically to lodge the cane under her neck or in the crease of her elbow. Julie London’s rendition of “Mickey Mouse March” makes you long for those younger, care free years. As to why he chose such a universally known song Peugh says, “I’m a huge Walt Disney fan. He was a genius, like Michael Jackson, who was sensitive to the magical curiosity of childhood. There’s a tenderness and nostalgia in the song, but also an emptiness and loneliness. It’s about letting go and saying goodbye.”
Watching the work progress it’s clear the canes are more than a gimmick. In some parts, the canes were used as extensions of the dancers’ bodies while other times they were used for support such as when Rohr was carried across the floor balanced between two canes. In the beginning the canes resemble toy’s that the dancers wield like light sabers before sticking them down their shirts. In one instance, the dancers hold the cane still and run around in circles with their foreheads glued to the top of the cane. In other sections, the way the dancers’ gazed at and caressed the canes made these everyday objects appear almost human. Peugh says he didn’t give the dancers any direction in how they should interact with the canes. “I think it’s more interesting to see what comes out of the dancers in the moment, instinctively during the performance. It won’t ever be the same thing. It’s more interesting to see the range and layers of feelings flicker.”
Dark Circles Contemporary Dance’s Fall Series: Aimless Young Man will take place Oct. 9-11 at Erma Lowe Hall, Studio Theatre in Fort Worth. The program includes Aimless Young Man, It’s A Boy and Peugh’s crowd-pleasing, Slump.
» Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com