Peugh in rehearsal with his Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Photo by Daley Kappenman, Courtesy DCCD

How Choreographer Joshua L. Peugh Is Pushing Past Queer Archetypes in Texas & Beyond

With his honest, idiosyncratic movement, Joshua L. Peugh often tells untold stories through dance. He's reimagined The Rite of Spring, for instance, at a mid-century prom with the sacrificial virgin taking the form of a young man in drag.


On top of running his Dallas-based Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Peugh, 34, has also created highly theatrical pieces for BODYTRAFFIC, BalletX, Whim W'Him and other troupes. His recent work takes a more serious turn, exploring Arab identities in Aladdin, Habibi and myths of masculinity and LGBT themes in Bud.

He recently spoke to Dance Magazine to share the ins-and-outs of his creative process.

How He Comes Up With Such Fascinating Ideas for Dances

"I am interested in 'the human comedy,' why we do some of the curious things we do and what makes us act in contradictory ways. I encourage dancers to let go of theatricality and let the story and their messy humanity come through the movement itself. "

"My ultimate desire is to reframe questions instead of providing answers."

Why He's Going Deeper Into LGBT Themes in His Latest Work

"I didn't plan it this way, but this season we are a company of mostly queer dancers. So now I am not asking them to tell my story, it's their story too. Most choreographers who are queer spend the majority of their time creating hetero-normative choreography featuring male/female partnering. I want to represent my tribe, our needs and desires. Push past some of the queer archetypes represented in mainstream media and give them more depth. LGBT stories told by LGBT people in an authentic, truthful way."

"Since the local football stadium's lights lit up my family's front lawn, I literally grew up under the Friday Night Lights. In Bud I collaborated with Brian Kenny, a queer multimedia artist and my best friend from high school. We are exploring rituals of masculinity and the fear and shame we felt as closeted teenagers, while also celebrating our friendship."

Daley Kappenman

How Ohad Shaped Him

"Ohad Naharin is a huge influence when it comes to generating movement. One of his dancers began setting Minus 7 my first day at Korea's Universal Ballet in 2006, and when Ohad arrived a few weeks later to put the final touches on, he selected me to do the intermission improvisation, shocking the more experienced company members. His faith in my imagination and him giving me permission to follow my own personal fantasy unlocked something in me. His way of working gave me access to parts of my body and my mind that I had been neglecting. He reminded me of the pleasure of dancing."

The Influence of Theater

"Growing up in New Mexico, I was a total musical theater kid, and I thought that was my path. I am interested in acting methods. My high school theater teacher studied with Sanford Misner. Right now I'm very excited about ViewPoints, which is based in movement and the experience of letting things happen. Both Misner and ViewPoints train you to be present; to listen first and then respond. Gaga does the same thing. All of these influences have infiltrated and enhanced my creative process."

His Creations Are Team Efforts

"For Aladdin, Habibi, we made a list of plot points and each dancer made a movement to one plot point, We built the opening section that way. My dancers are available to follow their instincts. Watching each other helps disrupt our habitual patterns."

What It's Like Balancing a Company and Outside Commissions

"When I'm away on a commission, I'm able to get a lot done for Dark Circles because I'm not worried about day-to-day things. I don't have to worry about fundraising, morale issues, scheduling. I get to concentrate on the work I am creating. I get to be more present. The dancers I work with in other places who don't train with me on a daily basis, who can't easily anticipate what I might do next, remind me of colors on my palette that I may not have used in awhile. I always come home fired up and ready to push my company in new directions."

Latest Posts


Clockwise from top left: Photo by Loreto Jamlig, Courtesy Ladies of Hip-Hop; Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Photo by Will Mayer for Better Half Productions, Courtesy ABT

The 10 Biggest Dance Stories of 2019

What were the dance moments that defined 2019? The stories that kept us talking, week after week? According to our top-clicked articles of the year, they ranged from explorations of dance medicine and dance history, takedowns of Lara Spencer and companies who still charge dancers to audition, and, of course, our list of expert tips on how to succeed in dance today.

We compiled our 10 biggest hits of the year, and broke down why we think they struck a chord:

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Nichols

I Am a Black Dancer Who Was Dressed Up in Blackface to Perform in La Bayadère

On Instagram this week, Misty Copeland reposted a picture of two Russian ballerinas covered head to toe in black, exposing the Bolshoi's practice of using blackface in the classical ballet La Bayadère. The post has already received over 60,000 likes and 2,000 comments, starting a long overdue conversation.

Comments have been pouring in from every angle imaginable: from history lessons on black face, to people outside of the ballet world expressing disbelief that this happens in 2019, to castigations of Copeland for exposing these young girls to the line of fire for what is ultimately the Bolshoi's costuming choice, to the accusations that the girls—no matter their cultural competence—should have known better.

I am a black dancer, and in 2003, when I was 11 years old, I was dressed up in blackface to perform in the Mariinsky Ballet's production of La Bayadère.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS

Here's the First Trailer for the "In the Heights" Movie

Lights up on Washington Heights—because the trailer for the movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical In the Heights has arrived. It's our first look into Lin-Manuel Miranda's latest venture into film—because LMM isn't stopping at three Tony awards, a Grammy award, and an Emmy.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
contest
Enter Our Video Contest