A while back, after the first round of creating his new piece for Whim W’Him‘s upcoming Shindig,* choreographer Joshua Peugh wrote me from Tulsa, where he was doing another job: “The working title for Whim W’Him is The Boy Next Door. It may change when I see the work again. I’ve been trying to let it sit until I get back with the company week after next. I haven’t looked at it or thought much about it since I left; I wanted to let it simmer for a while. The piece features music by The Lennon Sisters, The Mills Brothers, and The McGuire Sisters. As a rule, I don’t like to say much about the work before people have had time to make sense of it for themselves. I believe movement is the most basic form of human communication, and that dance—as an extension—should be accessible to everyone everywhere. I don’t want to color someones experience of the work before they’ve seen it. I will tell you, the design idea is 1940s TV game show.“
Joshua Peugh was born and raised in Las Cruces, New Mexico, his dad a Church of Christ minister, and a drummer, his mother a singer and a nurse. Dévotés of music, they in fact met in a Country Western dance class. Although his mom wanted him to play basketball, which she loved, she also had an affinity with the arts. When his parents tried to get him to go out for soccer, he just wasn’t interested. But both his parents “have always been incredibly supportive,” he says, “because I was very driven and passionate about what I did.” At the age of 2, Joshua was already dancing ballet and tap. “I sat and watched the entire Baryshnikov/Kirkland Nutcracker,” he reports, “and so my grandma said, ‘Sign him up.’”
Joshua did his undergraduate work in Dance and English at Southern Methodist University, from which he graduated cum laude, Intending to be a ballet dancer. He also says “I enjoyed stories.” He’s a huge Stephen King fan, he acknowledges, “although I thought it was popular trash until I read his book On Writing.“
He adds that “especially on writing, King has the exact same ideas about creativity and making art as mine. The great thing about him and others like him is that they entertain and also deliver questions (not so much answers) on why people do what they do. That’s what good art does—or the art I’m interested in does that. I don’t like blood and guts—I have too lively an imagination—but King’s writing is so lively you can get lost in it.”
The idea of getting lost in what you are doing is central to Joshua’s approach, to life and art. When he graduated from college, a teacher of his, who had worked for Universal Ballet, in Seoul, South Korea, suggested that he audition for the company. He sent a video, got the job and stayed six years.
Korea had profound effects on Joshua. Personally, he remarks, “I loved being lost and not being someone in specific. I learned to redefine myself in a new way and place.” He also learned to speak Korean, and when he tired of dancing Swan Lake and Giselle, he taught Kindergarten for a year. (By the way, the Korean pronuciation of Joshua—Cho Shu Wa—is a woman’s name in Korea, which on occasion has caused confusion.) He says, “I love that the culture there is still is intact. The country is saturated with Western ideas, but they still do their best to maintain