No local choreographer espouses wit more craftily than Joshua L. Peugh, founder of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance.
That gift often takes root in dances filled with whimsy and/or quirk, but in the company’s Spring Series — presented twice last weekend at Erma Lowe Hall at TCU — wit paired with subtlety, grace and intimate connections in two premieres by Peugh, and with another premiere by Gregory Dolbashian that was perfectly curated to sit between Peugh’s bookends.
First up was Peugh’s “Halt!,” inspired by the formality in the sport of fencing. Indeed, the six dancers (Cody Berkeley, Emily Bernet, Olin Blackmore, Rebecca Moore, Lena Oren and Taylor Rodman) wore fencing masks and white costumes designed by Susan Austin.
They sometimes “dueled,” but spent more time moving a red carpet in every direction across the theater’s black-box floor — north-south, east-west, diagonally. The moving of the carpet became part of the dance, from simply rolling it across, to pulling it with one dancer standing on it and another wearing it like a royal cape, to bunching the carpet via one dancer pushing himself and the laid-out carpet on the floor so that it curls up and becomes increasingly tasking.
Peugh commented on the need to find individuality in a world in which social media has made anonymity commonplace, and the movement stayed with the concept of formality. There was mystery, and not just because of the faceless dancers.
Peugh’s other new work was “Bleachers,” danced by four men (Orlando Agawin, Cody Berkeley, Olin Blackmore and Chadi El-Khoury) with a brief cameo by a woman (Lena Oren and Taylor Rodman alternating performances). Peugh says the work is about the lack of sex education for gay boys, which can result in confusion, shame and isolation.
The specificity of the topic might not be obvious, but its themes of sexual discovery, peer pressure, young love and friendship were. Peugh’s vocabulary of pliable shapes, weight-sharing lifts and odd couplings were evident throughout, in thoughtfully witty ways. It had a seriousness here not always felt in Peugh’s work, and it was breathtaking. Roma Flowers’ lighting included a powerful stadium-light effect.
In both pieces, true to his style, the music was all over the place, especially in “Halt!,” which ranged from Herb Alpert’s take on “My Favorite Things” to Glenn Gould to the electronica of deadmau5.
The music in Gregory Dolbashian’s “Evermore” was more straightforward: his own mixes and arrangements of compositions by Christopher Tyng. Paired with the movement of the company, it fit his description of “cinematic.”
The work was about connections between two people, and the pairings used interesting contact with dancers’ hands and heads, angular limbs and shapes. It reminded of martial arts movement, even in large, fast-moving clusters of dancers that darted to one point and stopped, as individual dancers detached.
As a whole, this Spring Series might be DCCD’s most successful collection of work in its history — proof why the group has bolted to the top echelon of local dance in just five years.