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Rites and Passages:A Visit with Dark Circles’ Joshua L. Peugh byNancyWozny

FortWorth. Peugh visitedwith A+C editorNancyWozny on creating the newwork andwhat’s up next for his standoutNorth Texas-based troupe.


There aremany dances set to Stravinsky’sTheRite of Spring; infact SMU’s ShelleyBergwrote a seminal bookabout some of them.Whatmade youwant to add to this existing canon?

Dr. ShelleyBergwas a professor ofmine at SouthernMethodist University; her classwas one ofmy favorites.What really inspiredme to create this newversionwas seeing one created bymymentorAhn Sungsoo inKoreawhile Iwas growingDarkCircles in Seoul.He based his version on the Taro cards. Itwas a very simpleworkwith five dancers in black pants on an empty stage.Aside fromthat, I find the music incredibly captivating; it has always inspired images inmymind. When I first returned to theUS, I heard theMeadows Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Paul Phillips play thework.Watching himconduct (which is likewatching amagician)mesmerizedme and encouragedmymind towander.

YourRite takes place at a prom,whichiskind of perfect,know- ing you.Buthowever did youget that idea?

The openingmeasures in the scoremademe think of a single blue paper streamer blowing in the draft in a gymnasium. I’ma huge StephenKing fan;maybe Iwas readingCarrie at the time?

Talkabout casting amanindrag, thewonderfulChadiEl- Khoury, as “TheChosenOne.”

Chadiwas born and raised in Lebanon.He has a very unique perspec- tive onAmericana and brings a different sort of depth to thework. Also, Stravinsky’s score speaks to himin a very excitingway.During the creation process hewould listen to itwhile practicing yoga!Hewas very excited by the ideas I had about exploring the nature of drag perform- ance.He emerged as “TheChosenOne” through the creation process.

Stravinsky is ahuge departure fromyourusualmusic choices. Where are the challenges and joys inworkingwiththis iconic score?

One of the challenges is the narrative nature of the score.As a rule, I don’t begin creatingwith a narrative inmind; I let the narrative emerge out of the creation process. I domy best to let the story unfold organi- cally, but Stravinsky broke the score into specific episodes.At first, I tried to completely ignore them, but as Iworked I allowed themto shape things casually. It’s the longestwork that I’ve ever created and the first time I’ve used a full score. Imay have the bug now; I’ve started dreaming about re-envisioning Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

That Iwant to see! It’s also terrific that youare bringing other voices toDarkCircles,mostnotably FabioLiberti.What appealed to youabouthis style?

Fabio and Imet at a choreography competition inGermany several years ago. I loved hismovement vocabulary aswell as his gift for incor-

DANCE!NORTHTEXAS a publication of the dance council of north texas

Pictured:Dark Circles ContemporaryDance in Joshua L. Peugh’s “TheRite of Spring.” Photo:KarenAlmond

porating text into hiswork.Hismovement also has an organic thoughtfulness and a curiosity that I’malways drawn to.But,most importantly, he is a genuine and generous person.

I oftenwishthat I couldhave another chance towrite your “25 toWatch” blurb inDanceMagazine, because Iknowmore about your stylenow. It’snot easy to grasp.METdance,who is doing one of yourworks inJune atMillerOutdoorTheatre, jumped onit right away, and I cansay that because Iwas there.How did thathappen?

It’s very important tome to create a safe environmentwhere dancers feel able to share their personal stories and fantasies. I encourage them to let go of their prejudices about themselves and the formand to trust their instincts.Curiosity about life and a hunger for it is really the key.

Let’s jump ahead tonext season.Youhave aworkbyMAD- BOOTS (Dallasnative JonathanCampbell andAustinDiaz). What attracted youto theirwork?

Iwas still living inKoreawhen I first heard aboutMADBOOTS. I have been paying attention to Jonathan andAustin and thework they’ve been creating ever since. Theirwork is intriguing tome. I’mjealous of the athleticismand daring in theirwork. I like theway they approach movement and theway they debunk socially constructed gender norms. I think theywill encourageDarkCircles to find newexciting things, but also continue to nourish the principles that are important to us.

Howdo youbalance your life as a busy freelance choreographer and yourworkas artistic director ofDarkCircles?

It’s incredibly difficult to balance commissions for other companies withmy responsibilities and dreams formy own company, but I believe the two really complement one another.While Iwasworkingwith BalletMemphis lastmonth, I remembered howto be a choreographer and not just an administrative artistic director.Workingwith other dancers also adds tomy palate; I always come home fired up and ready to pushmy company to find newand exciting things.

NancyWozny isEditor in Chief ofArts+Culture Texas

Reprintedwith Permission fromArts+Culture Texas. joshua-l-peugh/

vol. 19 • no. 2 May-July 2016 page 23

ance fans have another chance to see DarkCirclesContemporary Dance artistic director Joshua L. Peugh’s TheRite of Spring on April 29-May 1 atErma LoweHall Studio Theatre in

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