Dance Alum Joshua L. Peugh Wins Grand Prize at National Choreography Festival

Peugh selected as top choreographer among 114 entrants at 18th annual fest in Palm Desert, Calif.

Joshua L. Peugh
Joshua L. Peugh ('06), right, performing with Alex Karigan Farrior ('07) at the 18th Annual McCallum Theatre Choreography Festival in Palm Desert, Calif. Photo by Jack Hartin, courtesy of McCallum Theatre.

Meadows alums part of Peugh’s dance company success

Dance magazine had it right when they named Meadows dance alumnus Joshua L. Peugh (’06) as one of its “25 to Watch” in 2015. Peugh and his Dark Circles Contemporary Dance company keep racking up the accolades, the latest of which is the Grand Prize at the 18th annual McCallum Theatre Choreography Festival, held Nov. 7-8 in Palm Desert, Calif.

Peugh and company member and fellow Meadows dance alum Alex Karigan Farrior (’07) performed Peugh’s Critics of the Morning Song duet in front of an audience of over 1,000 dance enthusiasts at the McCallum Theatre. The panel of judges, which included professionals such as Joseph Carmen, former soloist with the Joffrey Ballet, Dutch National Ballet and American Ballet; Jamie Nichols, six-time Lester Horton Award winner; Keith Young, American Choreography Award winner and former principal dancer with Twyla Tharp Dance; and several other critically acclaimed dance professionals, awarded the top title to Peugh, along with a $10,000 purse.

“It was an incredible experience to perform in that beautiful space and for a warm audience alongside loving and supportive peers,” said Peugh. “It was truly a fairytale night.”

Peugh competed in the festival’s Division I group, which concentrates on choreographers working with professional dancers of seasoned artistry and mature technique. A total of 114 entrants participated in this year’s festival.

Dark Circles and Meadows Dancers

Peugh’s Dark Circles company has 11 dancers, six of whom have dance degrees from SMU Meadows. While Peugh actively builds partnerships and relationships with various educational communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, he’s partial to Meadows dancers.

“A high standard of excellence is instilled in the students at SMU,” he says. “They also share a curiosity for life and learning that's very important to me as a creator. Our aim is to create shared experiences where both audiences and performers can meditate on the quirks of humanity and think about why we do what we do. SMU dancers are thoughtful and well suited for excavating those questions.”

Kelsey Rohr ('15) with Dexter Green ('15). Photo by Sharen Bradford, courtesy of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance.

Company member and Meadows dance alumna Kelsey Rohr (’15) says Peugh’s work fosters a positive atmosphere. “When Josh creates a new work, I feel that each company member's voice is so important to him,” she says. “He capitalizes on our individuality and quirkiness to tell his story. As a result, I learn so much about myself and fellow dancers. We are constantly growing together as a team to share Josh's story.”

Dexter Green (’15) agrees, saying that from Dark Circles’ humble beginnings three years ago in a small black box theatre, to performing on one of dance’s biggest stages, Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Mass., Peugh has coached company members and encouraged them to bring their own creativity to the process.

Josh has opened many opportunities for us and he does it unselfishly,” says Green. “Dark Circles has allowed me to teach, mentor, delight audiences and make statements about what’s going on in our world through an artistic lens.”

Kelsey Rohr and Dexter Green are alums of Meadows Dance. Photo by Sharen Bradford, courtesy of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance.

Regarding the makeup of the company, Green says Peugh hand-selects each dancer for different reasons. “No two people in the company dance alike, come from the same town or feel the exact same about a subject matter,” he says. “We come into the studio and share our unique experiences, stories and ideas with each other and from there we create art together. We are all different ingredients for an artistic gumbo or creative cocktail.”

Looking Ahead

Dark Circles will premiere Peugh’s most ambitious work to date on March 4, 2016 on a shared program with Avant Chamber Ballet at the Dallas City Performance Hall. Peugh will present a reimagined take on Igor Stravinsky’s masterwork The Rite of Spring, using a 1950s senior prom set in a gymnasium as the vehicle for interpreting Stravinsky’s self-described “solemn pagan rite.” Tickets go on sale December 1.

Read more about Joshua L. Peugh and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance.

Read more about SMU Meadows Division of Dance.

Read more about the McCallum Theatre Choreography Festival in Palm Desert, Calif.