Interview: Joshua L. Peugh, Arts Entrepreneur

Joshua L. Peugh; Artistic Director and Founder of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

Joshua L. Peugh formerly danced with Universal Ballet Company in South Korea. He now lives in Dallas, Texas and is the Founder and Artistic Director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance and an Adjunct Lecturer of Dance at Southern Methodist University.

 1.    What role, if any, does a business plan play in building and launching an arts organization?

Having a business plan is very important for defining the goals and financial strategy of the organization. It’s a great tool for the board of directors and I to use as we create programming and fundraising campaigns.

2.    What three pieces of advice would you give aspiring artist entrepreneurs about planning?

Planning is key to a successful organization; it is important because no matter how much strategic planning you’ve done, things will pop up and surprise you. With a plan, you are better prepared for unexpected complications.

3.    What do you believe are necessary qualities, if there are any, for artist entrepreneurs to possess or develop?

It is necessary to possess incredible persistence, patience, and flexibility.

4.    What inspired you to begin your own arts organization?

I began Dark Circles Contemporary Dance (DCCD) with my best friends in South Korea because we weren’t seeing the kind of dance work we wanted to see. Most of the work being created and produced in Seoul was missing humanity. To us, that is the essential element in dance; we believe that movement is the most basic form of human communication, and the work we were seeing wasn’t saying anything to us. It was selfish and boring. There was no fantasy or groove.

When I launched the new branch of DCCD in the United States last April, it was because I wanted to continue creating work for intimate space that could reach a younger audience. Our audiences in South Korea were made up (mostly) of students and young professionals. In Dallas, most high-caliber dance work is presented in large theaters with large houses (500 seats or more). This keeps the viewer physically separated from the performers by a huge distance. Smaller, more intimate theaters make it easier to connect and interact with the work; they make it more accessible, and allow the viewer to participate more easily in the fantasy the choreographer and dancers are creating. It is a completely different experience for both the performers and the audience.

5.    What kind of financial backing did you have to begin your organization?

We accumulated a group of artists (dancers, photographers, designers, etc.) that were interested in the work we were creating and presenting. Everyone donated their time and talent because they loved the freedom this new value system created. We had all worked for professional companies that paid good salaries, but when you’re work for money, passion sometimes takes backseat to contractual obligations. Everyone was passionate about the work we were doing. My partner and I put in the money we needed to get started, and eventually we started to build an audience. Because of the growing interest in the company and a growing fan base, DCCD is now able to make a profit from ticket sales.

While creating the new branch of DCCD in the United States, I have relied on contributions from generous donors and fans (both local and international) who have seen our work and believe in our mission to bring the innovative work of international choreographers and dancers to a worldwide audience. My hope is that fans of the company will take responsibility for supporting us.

6.    What unexpected problems or situations arose in the planning of your organization that you wish you had been better prepared to handle?

What is still difficult for me personally is balancing the need for funds with the creative freedom that is necessary to create work that can connect with people in our target audience (18 to34). Reaching that group requires a huge amount of time spent on social media. Creating interesting content on a daily basis is a challenge.

 Interview by Ellie Butler, student in Arts Entrepreneurship, SMU.

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