| Dance |

From South Korea to Dallas, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance Crafts New Vocabulary

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Dallas has a new dance company on its hands. Well, maybe not "new," as it is in its second full season in Dallas, but you might not have heard of them yet. And that's because they were first based in South Korea (and still have a branch there). I'm talking about Dark Circle Contemporary Dance (DCCD).

Launched in the spring of 2010 in South Korea, DCCD is the brainchild of Joshua Peugh and Hyun-Sang Cho. Peugh, a graduate of Southern Methodist University's dance program, traveled to South Korea after he accepted a job with the Universal Ballet Company. After working with the company for a few years, he left when he was commissioned to create a new work for the Opera House in Daegu, South Korea. There he met Hyun-Sang Cho.

While rehearsing, they bonded quite quickly, spending much of their downtime together just "drinking coffee, eating pork, and discussing dance, sometimes until four in the morning, we were a great match," Peugh says of their meetings of the minds. "We had the same ideas about movement and the purpose of art. We saw a lack of humanity in the dance work being created and presented in Seoul."

After that first performance, they opened a small studio together where they could rehearse and create without the pressures of the Korean dance culture, which can be very strict, demanding, and judgmental.

"We sent our work out to local festivals and continued to receive performances," Peugh says. "Eventually, we decided our little project deserved a name. Because of our late night/early morning conversations, Dark Circles seemed like an appropriate choice."

The company's mission statement is both broad and impactful: "Dark Circles Contemporary Dance is dedicated to bringing the progressive work of international choreographers and dancers to a worldwide audience giving them a sophisticated multicultural experience. The company is also committed to educating the public on the power of movement in communicating ideas."

The latter they are looking to accomplis with this new season of works that will feature the company's 10 dancers in world premiere commissionings from guest choreographers Mike Esperanza, Director of New York's BARE Dance Company, and James Gregg, a Montreal-based choreographer.

"I'm excited about hosting Mike and James as they both use an intriguing vocabulary and their work has an authenticity and beautiful sense of understatement," says Peugh, who will also premiere several new works and restage selected older pieces.

One of those new works is Peugh's attempt to rethink and formulate Igor Stravinksy's masterpiece, The Rite of Spring. Now, this seems to be a trend for many young choreographers, to tackle one of the most famous and infamous pieces of contemporary dance and music. Not only are you up against Stravinsky's insanely complicated musical score; you have to beat Nijinsky's hijinks. The Rite of Spring blew people's minds when it first premiered in 1913. It caused a massive riot at the Paris Opera House with people storming out of the theatre, but to only come back for more the next day. It had people talking. It gave a new view on humanity--the cutthroat, competitive, dangerous nature that lives inside us all.

To be fair, the original version looks a bit silly today. It's not obscene or dangerous. It's quite safe in its costuming and concept, but it opened the door for artists to explore this Darwinian desire to be perfect and to making sacrifices at all costs. Probably the best contemporary example of the evolution of The Rite of Spring came from Pina Bausch. Here, her chosen one, fights to stay alive, fights to be just one of the crowd, and left alone. That is not her fate. In an exercise of extreme physicality and athleticism, Bausch's dancers personify the elemental struggle for life, for survival, pushing their bodies to extremes and dancing until they literally collapse from physical and mental exhaustion.

It's raw and dangerous, dirty and disgusting, real and human. Can DCCD's version live up to this? Peugh's creation uses a senior prom, set inside a 1950s gym, to tell this iconic rite of passage story. His characters are American teenagers, characters known to him and his work. In a show this spring, Peugh demonstrated his interest in this coming of age narrative with White Day and Marshmallow. Here, he was looking at love through a gentle examination of the way we relate to each other. But still, there was an evident nod to a former era of gendered roles and the status quo. How will he confront the harrowing violence of the former works? Will his teenagers make it to the prom on time?

So, why should you see a DCCD show? Well, if you are interested in seeing a side of dance that is not the traditional slicked-back hair, tulle-covered bodies, and you are rather enticed by athleticism and a bit of humor, then DCCD might have something for you. Peugh is attempting to strip down dance to show the humanity in the moving body--this is the case for many contemporary choreographers working today, and the motivation for many emerging choreographers. Peugh is defining what dance is for himself, and this new season is putting him on a path to creating a new vocabulary.

He is also committed to exploring the dance scene in Dallas further. "The potential for Dallas to become a major voice in the dance industry is huge, and creating and exporting locally made work by local artists will certainly aid in earning the area some national and international recognition."

Where will he go from here? What will his company accomplish? You could be one of the first to find out.

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance will have two shows locally in their 2014/2015 season:

  • Fall Series at the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre, Thursday, September 4 through Saturday, September 6 at 8:00pm
  • Winter Series at the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre, Thursday, January 29 through Saturday, January 31 at 8:00pm

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