Performing Arts

Review: Dark Circles dances refreshing, unique Winter Series

Critics of the Morning Song by Dark Circles Contemporary Dance
Critics of the Morning Song by Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

Thursday night’s opening of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance USA’s second show of its second season was another reminder of what’s off-putting about so much contemporary dance. That’s not a dismissal of DCCD, but rather of other small-budget modern companies that rely on the same-ol’, same-ol’ moves, over and over and over …

What DCCD Artistic Director Joshua L. Peugh and his collaborators are doing is remarkably different in terms of body movement and the way dancers travel about the stage. And wow, is it refreshing.

The best example is the premiere of Peugh’s You & Me, which uses a hodgepodge of music ranging from a theme from the video game Super Mario Brothers, to a section of Fauré’s Requiem, Op. 48, to electronic music by Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

In the earlier and later movements, the dancers (Peugh, David Cross, Chadi El-Khoury, Alex Karigan Farrior, Sarah Hammonds and Steffani Lopezmove swiftly in groups or breaking off individually, forming jagged body shapes like a cluster of pipe cleaners being manipulated by a gale-force wind that changes direction every few seconds. In the middle Requiem section, women soar on the shoulders of slow-moving men as if caught in The Wizard of Oz’s tornado.

There is a basis in classical technique, but Peugh jacks with that for his own unique vocabulary. Standout dancers are Cross and Lopez, who bring well-done street dance into the mix.

Peugh’s Critics of the Morning Song, which debuted in New York last year, is a funny commentary about interpretation. Peugh and Farrior dance a duet to three songs — actually three versions of the same song: I’m Always Chasing Rainbows, as sung by Ray Conniff, then Judy Garland and David Rose, and finally Perry Como. Again, Peugh’s vocabulary results in unusual body contortions and witty play off of each other.

Guest choreographer James Gregg debuted his work Boonflood, USA, using original music by Austin-based composer Jordan Moser, which combines aspect of electronic sounds and bluegrass music in surprisingly moving ways. As the lights come up on a hazy stage, clusters of dancers cross the stage, facing the audience and not moving their faces, moving as one body from wing to wing. It’s no wonder Peugh picked Gregg as a guest, as they have similar movement aesthetics, and a sense of humor. What could have been corn-pone is elevated into something of beauty and whimsy.

This was DCCD’s first time using the Erma Lowe Hall Studio at Texas Christian University, which is a bit bigger and more sightline-friendly than the Sanders Theatre, which was used for the group’s three previous stand-alone performances. It’s a great space for the area’s most exciting dance company and the most refreshing voice in the area dance world.

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance USA

▪ 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

▪ Texas Christian University, Erma Lowe Hall Studio

▪ 3000 S. University Dr., Fort Worth

▪ $12-$20

▪ 575-993-3584; www.darkcirclescontemporarydance.com

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