Photo courtesy Dark Circles Contemporary Dance.

Dance Review: Dark Circles Contemporary Embraces Classical Technique

Artistic director Joshua Peugh isn't afraid of classical technique.

The performance, which took place in Fort Worth over the weekend, was a mix of masterful choreography and not-quite-there-yet ensemble pieces. “White Day” and “Marshmallow,” by Dark Circles Contemporary Dance Artistic Director Joshua Peugh, are set to music by Japanese composers Ryuichi Sakamoto Joe Hisaishi and inspired by the Japanese and Korean Valentine’s Day holiday (also known as “White Day.”) The evening also included the stage premier of “Nemesis, Variations,” by guest choreographer Louis Acquisto, an alumnus of Southern Methodist University, the same place Peugh received his advanced modern dance and choreography training.
“Nemesis, Variations,” Acquisto’s work, had potential to develop into something; it just wasn’t quite ready for the stage.  The dance initiates with the direct concept of time. A projection of digital time lapsing, and time remaining filled the upstage wall of the theater. Dancers casually entered the stage wearing only their undergarments and proceeded to get dressed within the confines of that digital clock count down.
Watching this piece reminded me of a rehearsal where a choreographer has just asked dancers to improvise and create movement.  The result is a set of fragments that only later are pieced together in a way coherent to an outside observer.  I have no doubt that each dancer’s movement had great personal intention and meaning, but I fear it was lost on much of the audience.
The trendy use of multi-media in current modern choreography is understandable, as it purports to bring another level of physicality to dance.  But, for me, disconnect comes in the assumption that technology is the best way to accomplish this added dimension. Raw talent is most certainly evident in Acquisto’s work, so perhaps with time and experience we will have the opportunity to see him butterfly.
Joshua Peugh’s works were an exquisite display of meaningful movement that was carefully constructed yet perfectly open to chance. Over the years I have observed him taking a certain amount of risk in his works without jeopardizing the integrity of all the training and perfecting that goes into creating what Martha Graham called “an athlete of God.”
Sometimes the biggest risk is also the most meaningful offering. Such is the case with “White Day” and “Marshmallow.” Joshua Peughs utilization of classical technique with modern sensibility speaks of the past and the future.  His dancers have noticeable ballet technique, and Peugh is not afraid to highlight this training in his choreography.  This is a risky move inside the modern dance culture, because so many modern choreographers still run as far away from ballet as they possibly can on the assumption that ballet foundations take away from the humanity within the modern aesthetic. The result is every bit effective and enjoyable.