It’s that time of the year when colleges are staging their end of semester dance concerts, and Southern Methodist University is no exception. Yet, their concerts follow a different structure than other institutions. While other colleges in North Texas highlight a mixture of faculty and student works in either their fall or spring dance programs, SMU’s features three faculty/guest artists and either premieres or restagings of established and popular works. It’s an educational and enriching experience for the students involved, and exposes a segment of contemporary dance history to audience members.
For this spring’s production, the concert includes the premiere of two new works, one from alumnus Joshua Peugh, the founder and artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, and the other from visiting Artist-in-Residence John Selya. Faculty member Danny Buraczeski is restaging his acclaimed 1999 piece Ezekiel’s Wheel, inspired by the life and work of author and civil rights activist James Baldwin.
In the first of this three-part interview series with the choreographers, I spoke with Joshua Peugh about his new work, The Hi Betty Cha-Cha, for his alma mater. Peugh graduated in 2006 and moved to South Korea to join the Universal Ballet Company. In 2010, he left UBC to co-found the original Dark Circles Contemporary Dance in Seoul, and then started the North Texas branch in 2013. Since then, Peugh has been traveling all over the world creating work for companies in Asia, Europe, Canada and the U.S., and was selected as one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2015.
The Hi Betty Cha-Cha. What does this piece mean to you?
This new piece uses music from Dean Martin, Quartetto Centra, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and a personal favorite of mine, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’ “Zorba the Greek.” These artists are quite different from each other, opposites almost. What motivated you to select them individually and combine them for this piece?
What is your hope that the piece illustrates for the audience?
How has your experience been working with the students at SMU? How have they adapted to the work and your style?
How does this piece fit into the aesthetic you are crafting both as a teacher and as choreographer/artistic director of Dark Circles?
How important is storytelling to your work? From what I’ve seen of your past works, it seems to be a grounding element. How does this work continue that?