Dance film premieres at Fountain Theatre


Dark Circles Contemporary Dance is offering a special screening of “Ten-Gallon,” a groundbreaking queer western romance, at 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 25, at the Fountain Theatre in Mesilla.

The production debuted live in El Paso in October 2023. Joshua Peugh, founder and artistic director said while Dark Circles is based in Las Cruces, they couldn’t find a performance space in town and so took it to an El Paso venue.

Five dancers from across the United States spent about eight weeks in Las Cruces putting the show together, Peugh, the production’s choreographer, said.

“We had a live audience for four performances,” he said. “We got some really exciting feedback. The film was funded by The Endowment of the Arts, New Mexico Arts and others.”

The production and film feature an original musical score created by the company composer, Brandon Carson, with Peugh closely involved in the process.

“Our composer composes, and I create the concept in the dance,” he said. “We work together for months and months. It’s the same with lighting and costume design. Its to make sure we were all creating this one work together, all working on the same show at the same time.”

Peugh said he worked with the dancers to put the choreography together.

“The only way I know to create work that is touching and authentic is from the inside out,” he said. “We generate the material together. It’s a really collaborative process.”

The themes of the production started with questions Peugh was asking himself. As a child, he loved the westerns in film and on television and the recurring ideas that appeared in them.

“They were questions like, ‘Why do westerns persist? Why are we interested? What is the cowboy and how has the cowboy been seen in masculinity?’” he said. “I saw all the Billy the Kid stuff and I thought maybe I could draw people in.”

He took an interest in which populations are erased from the depictions of those days.

“Queer people were left out, but it certainly was happening and there were plenty of people of color trying to find land and a way to create a life,” he said.  “So, I wanted to dig into those stories. I spent months reading the novels and watching the movies and looking where the prejudices were, and that all sort of shaped this work.”

He followed his interest in the character types, looking at those stereotypes and thinking about how they interact with each other.

“It’s sort of this American fantasy that is global and has shaped our identity,” he said. “How can I make that part of the feel of the production and sound?”

Peugh said he probably wouldn’t have made the production or film anywhere else. It came out of being here in New Mexico and spending time with the area, walking around Mesilla and being able to share the space with outside artists to let them feel the time and space and to see and to hear the desert.

“Ten-Gallon” is another way to gather as a community and celebrate and think about things, he said.

“I would love it if an audience left with more questions than answers,” he said. “If they reconsider beliefs or feelings they don’t have. I like to look at the questions in different angles. Humans are too multitudinous, too beautiful. We resist that clear definition.”

Peugh recommended getting tickets beforehand through the website,, as seating is limited.

Fountain Theatre, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Ten-Gallon