Joshua L. Peugh ’06 – Founder and Artistic Director, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

By Katie Dravenstott

Southern Methodist University wasn’t originally on his list of prospective colleges, but from the moment Joshua L. Peugh (’06) stepped into the Meadows School of the Arts he knew that he was home.

“I walked into Meadows and I could feel the energy and I knew that this was where I was supposed to be,” Peugh says.

“I originally wanted to lean toward musical theater, but when I got through the SMU dance audition I was thinking that I could do my classical training now and come back later to musical theater. And so that is how I chose Meadows, and I loved every single minute of it.”

One of his favorite courses was dance history with Shelley Berg. “I loved the way she encouraged me to synthesize information and to follow the threads that were hanging out. I wrote a paper for her comparing the ballet Giselle to Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula because I was also a double major in English. She encouraged me to keep drawing those parallels and keep pulling the stuff I was learning in literary theory and to synthesize that with dance history and some of those lenses that are there.”

Peugh adds that he had special connections with a majority of the faculty, including Myra Woodruff, Jeremy Blanton, Patty Harrington Delaney, Leslie Peck, Max Stone, Nathan Montoya and Karen Kriete.

“There are just so many people who changed me and shaped me during my time at SMU. They really gave me all the tools that I use now. I’ve picked up stuff since then, and I had a lot coming in because I came from a good school that prepared me for SMU. But then SMU prepared me for my professional life.”

SMU dance alumni
Scene from White Day. All photos by Sharen Bradford courtesy of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

It’s also where Peugh discovered his passion for choreography, after a knee injury at the beginning of his sophomore year made it hard for him to take technique classes. Instead, he used what he learned at The Joffrey Ballet that summer to start creating work for Brown Bag, which he continued to do throughout college.

After graduation Peugh relocated to South Korea, where he founded Dark Circles Contemporary Dance (DCCD). He moved back to Dallas in 2011 to become the resident choreographer for the recently revamped Bruce Wood Dance Project.

“I had always admired Bruce,” Peugh says about his decision to come back and work with the local dance legend. “I was drawn to the musicality in his work and the way he interpreted things. And there’s a touch of theatricality in there that I loved.”

When it came time to form a Dallas branch of DCCD in 2013, Peugh says he knew exactly where to look for dancers. “SMU gave me a pool to hire dancers who were trained like I was and who understood the things that I understood about form, content and shape. You can usually tell an SMU dancer because of the training that we get.”

Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas.

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