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Review: Dark Circles Contemporary Dance offers North Texas a change of pace

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Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, 1300 Gendy St., Fort Worth

$20, $12 for students

575-993-3584; www.DarkCirclesContemporaryDance.com

Posted 11:43pm on Thursday, Sep. 26, 2013

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance is not a new company — it was founded by Joshua L. Peugh in Seoul, South Korea, in 2010 — but it is new to North Texas.

And it’s new in the best possible way. This group does contemporary dance with movement and a dance vocabulary that is definitely not what we’ve seen before — not in these parts.

So many new modern companies seem to be copying one another with all-too-familiar and, frankly, yawn-worthy work. Not the case with Dark Circles.

Dallas resident Peugh, an SMU graduate and former artistic associate with Bruce Wood Dance Project, decided to debut his company at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center on Thursday with a program of three works, which repeats Friday and Saturday.

Peugh lived and danced in Seoul for six years, and the last work on the program is influenced by traditional Korean dance.

But let’s start with the first work, Peugh’s Cosmic Sword. The one work of Peugh’s that we’d seen before was Slump in a 2012 summer performance by Bruce Wood Dance Project. That showcased his knack for comedy and contorted, angular body movements. So does Cosmic Sword.

Commenting on the sense of wholesome morality of the 1950s, the work features Peugh, Jennifer Mabus and Jesse Castaneda in a series of comic dances about relationships and, well, sex. Dressed in ’50s-inspired duds, it begins as Peugh is applying shaving cream to has face, and Castaneda combines street dance moves with a fast-tempo polka. The second movement plays off lounge-y music — with the word sex repeated over and over — and the third is set to disco-sounding music, with jerky, comic moves from the dancers.

The second work, Fighting Games by Dong Hyoung Kim, is a little more traditional, a pas de deux danced by Emily Bernet and Dexter Green, set to a Daft Punk version of a ballad. The coupling often features the pair relying on each other to stand, to remain stable, as if one can’t survive without the other. A short work, it ends as he carries her backward into the darkness.

The final work, jjigae, features the entire company — Peugh, Bernet, Mabus, Castaneda, Green, Shauna Davis, Mallory Ketch and Steffani Lopez — wearing high-waisted, drop-crotch pants, the men shirtless and the women in flesh-toned dancer tops, giving us a taste of Korean dance with a contemporary, Western twist. The dancers leap high from standing in place, sometimes landing on the ground in impossible positions or standing on one another. Other times, they showcase fluid hand and wrist movements, or pair and triple off with stern arms, bending over backward and sometimes covering other dancers’ faces with their hands.

Partners simultaneously struggle with and embrace one another, and the music is heavy on Korean female vocals and spare percussion, except in a movement using marching band percussion. Other music is credited to Korean Folk Music Ensemble and Paolo Pandolfo, among others.

What unites the work is that when some dancers are performing, the rest of the company sits, Indian-style, on the floor. Most of the time they watch the dancers without expression. Other times, they look at the floor, as if in meditation. It’s often eerie, frequently stunning, and always fascinating.

Dark Circles will perform this piece in October in Richardson, and will return to the Fort Worth Community Arts Center for a new show in March. In a North Texas dance scene that is finally starting to show interesting new work from companies with a variety of styles, Dark Circles is a very welcome addition.

You might leave with the feeling that it’s bizarre, but it’s also fresh. That’s what we need.

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