As part of this Saturday’s performance, Dallas Black Dance Theatre will present a virtual world premiere by Joshua Peugh. Peugh actually heads up another ensemble in North Texas, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance.
But he’s taught at Dallas Black Dance for three years now — though this is his first commission for DBDT’s main company. And the artistic freedom they gave him, Peugh said, was actually worrisome.
“I was a little bit nervous about how I should approach that – you know, as a white man coming in to create on a historically black dance company,” Peugh said. “And so some of those questions that I had [they] led me to asking myself, ‘What is Dallas Black Dance Theatre?’ and then taking that question to the dancers.”
The dancers had two kinds of answers: how the public often sees them and how the artists see themselves. That’s why, Peugh says, his dance traces the changing images and perceptions of black performance over the years.
“I know what the dancers’ bodies are capable of,” said Peugh of the DBDT performers he worked with. “I wanted to celebrate how beautiful, how multi-faceted that company is.”
So Saturday evening opens with Peugh’s work as it moves through musical performers from Ella Fitzgerald all the way to Kanye West. What follows in performance is the revival of a different piece, Bodies as Sites of Faith and Protest, by Tommie-Waheed Evans [below], which is based on the Rev. Martin Luther King’s “We Shall Overcome” speech.
Fittingly, the title of Peugh’s work is “I AM LARGE.” It comes from the poet Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” — his famous line, “I am large, I contain multitudes.”