BWW Review: THE GREAT AMERICAN SH*T SHOW at Dark Circles Contemporary Dance
Dark Circles Contemporary Dance once again doesn't shy away from commentary and comedy in their new program: The Great American Sh*t Show. Comprised of four pieces (in order "The Great American Sh*t Show", "For Allen", "Coyotes Tip-Toe", and "Gal Friday"), the evening's performances range from solemn to joyous, as Artistic Director and Choreographer Joshua L. Peugh and Guest Choreographers Jonathan Campbell & Austin Diaz ("For Allen") explore modern life, loss, and deceptively - love.
The night begins with the titular piece, the stage thick with haze and littered with trash - much like the country. The ensemble begins expressive, almost pantomimic movements with latex gloves, both rejecting and becoming a part of the trash heap, as one dancer enters and is seemingly harassed throughout the rest of the piece, defeated. The bleak depiction is both jarring and revelatory. The night continues as the guest piece, "For Allen" takes the stage. Company members launch themselves across the floor, running and falling to the barks of one of their peers. The bare, open stage quickly filled with flying bodies. Brief sequences by intensely physical dancers, Cody Berkeley and Alex Karigan Farrior, dominate the stage as the piece takes a dark turn, and the level of mourning and piety appears in the last movement of "Ave Maria".
The latter half of the piece is kicked off with the duet "Coyotes Tip-Toe", performed by Cody Berkeley and Chadi El-Khoury. The playful, and deceptively canine flirtation is interesting, as Peugh instructs interesting variations of classical across the floor patterns. The repetitions of the pas de deux increase in both energy and fervor as the piece draws on, eventually leading in a surprisingly humorous howl. The night is closed by Peugh's new piece, "Gal Friday", which I was told by another audience member was inspired by the opinions of young girls on "what it means to be a woman". This though framed the rest of the piece which would have otherwise been cute and comical, but as an ensemble of women performed staccato cors movements to the sound of a type writer I found myself rather saddened by the presented prospect of what young women perceive as their futures. The pace quickens however, as individual duets and groups take on the jazzy score, resulting in the Dark Circles characteristic surprise ending.
Lighting Design by Christopher M. Ham for the title piece and "For Allen", and Kolby Clarke "Coyotes Tip-Toe" and "Gal Friday", brings the evening to life. Heavy haze in the first two pieces allows light to join in the physicality of the piece, and towards the end of "For Allen" a lone light down left illuminates the bare stage and brings a heightened sense of space to the already haunting piece. At times the cyc and traveler curtains would be flown out, revealing the empty, vaulted space of the stage. The light and haze playing off the exposed boom lights and brick rear creates an interestingly honest experience, one that fits well with what the choreographers try to convey.
Like with he works I've seen with Dark Circles before, I'm left with more questions about "The Great American Sh*t Show" than answers, though always with a smile on my face. I've grown to rather enjoy Peugh's originally take on Contemporary Ballet, which is almost always political, and yet guaranteed to include a sense of humor. The evening is worth a trip, if not for the impeccably talented and strong dancers, for the change of pace in what it means to watch a dance performance. "The Great American Sh*t Show" runs through November 20th in the Bob Hope Theatre at the Owen Arts Center at SMU.