Q&A: Joshua L. Peugh, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

Joshua Peugh is the co-founder and artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Photo: Sergio Garcia
Joshua Peugh is the co-founder and artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Photo: Sergio Garcia

The choreographer discusses his new work and the U.S. premiere of his company, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance.

Fort Worth – Choreographer Joshua Peugh is looking to bridge the gap between the East and West with his South Korean-based company, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance (DCCD). The company will be making its U.S. debut Sept. 26-28, 2013 at the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.

The program will include Peugh’s new work Jjigae and Korean choreographer Dong Hyoung Kim’s new work Fighting Game, as well as a restaging of Cosmic Sword, a piece created for the Breaking Ground Dance Festival in Tempe, Arizona last winter.

After graduating from Southern Methodist University in 2006, Peugh joined the Universal Ballet Company in South Korea where he performed soloist and feature roles in works by Ohad Naharin and Christopher Wheeldon. Peugh returned to Dallas in 2011 to join the Bruce Wood Dance Project as associate choreographer. Today he is an adjunct professor at SMU as well as the artistic director for DCCD. Since its inception three-and-a-half years ago DCCD has produced 17 award-winning works and performed in five countries.

TheaterJones ask Joshua Peugh about the motivation for starting the U.S. branch of his company, the inspiration behind his new piece Jjigae and what it’s like working in the Dallas arts scene.

TheaterJones: When did you decide it was time to bring Dark Circles Contemporary Dance to the U.S.?

Joshua Peugh: It was always the plan to have a U.S. branch of the company, but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. After leaving the Bruce Wood Dance Project five months ago things just kind of fell into place. A lot of doors opened and here we are a few days before the company’s premiere in the States. We have this whole different group of dancers and two brand new works so it is really exciting.

Why did you choose North Texas for your company’s debut?

I didn’t think our first appearance would happen in Dallas, but the more time I’ve spent here and invested in the dance community it just felt right. It’s a really exciting time to be working in Dallas what with all the new spaces downtown and the dance community in general. I am also connected to Booker T. Washington, Southern Methodist University and the Dance Council [of North Texas] so it just feels natural to have the performance here. You know, if Bruce hadn’t seen my work I wouldn’t have come over here in the first place. But because people had seen my work in his concert last summer everyone is really curious about what it is I am doing now. I am very excited and very thankful for people being so curious about what we do.

How did you select your dancers?

Well, last winter Jennifer Mabus and I created a new work for the Breaking Ground Dance Festival in Tempe, Arizona. We started working on it and decided it needed a third dancer, Jesse Castaneda. He is a beautiful folklórico dancer, but he is also a B-boy. This kid loves to move, has a natural quality and is just really curious. The other dancers are students of mine from SMU and Booker T. So, we have quite a huge spectrum of ages and experiences. They are all very professional in the way they work and they are all passionate about moving. That is ultimately what I am looking for in a dancer. So, to answer your question I hand selected all of these people. These are people who I have worked with or seen in class that made me curious and inspired me. It’s a really special chemistry we have right now which is fortunate. Ultimately, in our 3-to-5-year plan I would like to be able to offer the dancers a full-time contract so we can keep some of that talent here in Dallas. The only way we are going to be able to keep people around is to be able to offer them work that will sustain them.

What was the inspiration for your new work, Jjigae?

 Jjigae depicts Peugh's struggle to asslimate himself between two cultures.
Jjigae depicts Peugh’s struggle to assimilate himself into two cultures. Photo: Sergio Gracia

It’s about me trying to figure out what I am doing back in the States after having lived in Korea for five and a half years. It’s about me trying to assimilate myself into these two cultures. When I came back the press was being really nosy about North Korea so when you said Korea to people their immediate response was ‘Oh, the bad Korea?’ And those people who experienced the war in 1953 have a very different idea of what Korea is and that is not the Korea I spent five and a half years in. It has this beautiful and rich culture that I am really connected to emotionally.

Anyway, we are using traditional Korean folk music mixed with drum line music. So, it’s kind of this interesting balance between the two. I am also trying to connect American culture and idealism with foreign cultures and perceptions. It’s a hugely personal piece for me and it’s not particularly light which is going to surprise some people.

Can you tell me about the other pieces on the program?

Sure! One is the restaging of Cosmic Sword which is the piece that Jennifer Mabus, Jesse Castaneda and I did in Tempe, Arizona. The other piece on the program is Dong Hyoung Kim’s new work called Fighting Game. It’s four girls and a guy and it’s about the relationships we have with ourselves and other people. He’s a really beautiful and curious choreographer. He comes up with really interesting stuff.

Who is your target audience?

I am interested in creating work for a younger audience between the ages of 20 and 34. When we did performances in Korea the audience was mostly young professionals and students. I think part of that is because the kind of work that we are doing is more interesting to a younger crowd. I am hoping by using students who are active in the community we can build a younger base. We are doing our PR almost exclusively on social media and then we go around and put up posters in the trendy parts of town. As a society we want to be connected all the time through Facebook and Twitter, but I’m hoping we can connect people back to their humanity through movement. I think people are excited about that.

 Why did you choose the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre for your venue?

I chose a smaller venue on purpose. I’m hoping by working in smaller, more intimate spaces that we can get people feeling more connected to the work. And I think in a smaller space it’s a little easier for the audience to focus on what’s happening.

 What would you like the audience to take away from your performance?

I have never been interested in providing answers. I want people to leave with questions. The beautiful thing about being human is being curious about those answers, but not necessarily needing to have one.

This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.


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