Addison — For my first review of 2019, I had the opportunity to experience the world of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance (DCCD). And what a great start to the year it was! Curated by the company’s artistic director Joshua L. Peugh, their Winter Series invited audiences to explore themes of gay identity through three world premieres from top choreographers and artists. These three works not only incorporated fresh, compelling choreographic ideas but also offered multiple perspectives on gender, gay culture, and masculinity through multi-disciplinary artistic influences. In addition to the company’s recent partnership with WaterTower Theatre, this first peek into their 2019 season signals that great things are ahead for DCCD.
The first premiere featured the quirky choreography of Parsons Dance company member Eoghan Dillon. Boys Are captured snapshots of identity, stereotype, and characterizations within gay culture through flamboyant costumes, comical interactions, and quick, surprising movement phrases. Bright lighting designs highlighted the dramatic facial expressions of each dancer as they awaited their turn to show off in the spotlight. A comical introduction paved the way for pulsing, electronic music to permeate the space as six dancers in a diagonal line arched their backs, squirmed sharply, and tangled their limbs together in a picture that proved to be strangely satisfying. Suddenly these distorted positions gave way to bursts of fluid movement—particularly Dillon’s inventive partnering phrases. One duet undulated through a series of vertical rolling lifts that articulated a delicate sense of strength. The juxtaposition of fierce, strong dancers embodying both gentleness and athletic power mirrored the complex exploration of gay identity found throughout the piece.
Backlights pierced through a fog of mysterious silhouettes as Dregs began. Not only did choreographers Mark Caserta and Mikey Morado create a mesmerizing visual manipulation of movement, but the team also succeeded in inventing an unsettling yet hypnotic world for these dancers to exist within. Eight dancers in identical black leotards, black knee-high socks, and black baseball caps covering their faces produced a cast of mysterious shapes. These costumes worked as a sort of camouflage— causing spooky entrances/exist as the dancers vanished into the ultra-dim lighting. Contorted bends, spineless ripples, and jutting hips cut through the lit spaces of the stage, only to be swallowed into the darkness again. The costume also veiled the individual identities of the movers, casting nameless, faceless, bodies in space—offering a genderless experience. In unison, dancers performed meticulously slow undulations as if they were moving under water or in zero gravity—adding to the other-worldly atmosphere of the work.
The calculated steps of the group developed a heightened tension as the ambient sounds increased in dissonance. Even after the company broke into solos and duets, the group stood along the edges of the space—hovering, stalking, watching their fellow dancers and twitching their hands uncontrollably. Motifs of breaking down, stop/go momentum, and sharp to melting dynamics added to the consistent building of stress and tension throughout this faceless masterpiece. Caserta and Morado merged elements of hip-hop, contemporary, and social dance to experiment on genderless, identity-less bodies in space. The duo constructed a fascinatingly strange sensory experience that was both hauntingly familiar and eerily new—a hard combination to achieve.
Phrases like “Boys will be girls,” “Masc, mask,” “Do ask, do tell,” hung from colorful sports banners to set the scene for Peugh’s Bud. In collaboration with multi-media artist Brian Kenny, the two tackled ideas of masculinity and sports culture in a bold, colorful mixture of set design, interactive art, and playful movement. Body-painted dancers in white tanks and shorts huddled together before parting ways to leap, slide, and prance through the space in pleasant chaos. An athletic theme evolved right from the start due to the sports banners, marching band music, and recognizable hand signals and gestures.
During the action, Kenny remained upstage where he swiftly freehanded an intricate chalk mural on a giant square board. Occasionally, a dancer would slip away from the shoving, lifting, and running of the group for the artist to add more body paint to their freshly stripped canvas. A game of tug-of war and a dance-off led to a more serious competitive atmosphere, with Kenny acting as a coach figure as he cheered on the dancers. While I admired the connection between artist and dancers, I longed for a clearer purpose for this interaction. Although themes of toxic masculinity appeared throughout the piece, the busyness of the set, art, and individual duets/solos made these motifs difficult to connect.