Great escape

Momix bring their best to FirstWorks
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  November 4, 2008

OVER THE MOON: Momix’s “movement illusionists” in Lunar Sea.

Writing about the dance troupe Momix is as tricky as describing effervescence: the bubbles make unexpected bounces and glides through their medium; there are quick bursts of movement, always surprising, constantly changing; and the whole phenomenon is gone in a matter of moments. Actually, the show that Momix brings to PPAC on November 8, in the wrap-up weekend of the FirstWorks Festival, will last a bit longer than carbonation (90 minutes), can be repeated (the group is on a multi-city tour), and takes place in air, not liquid.

The Best of Momix presentation will feature highlights from five programs from Momix's repertory: Orbit, Baseball, Passion, Opus Cactus, and Lunar Sea. Images from nature abound in Opus Cactus (desert flora and fauna) and in Lunar Sea (underwater creatures). The other three have different jumping-off points: space travel, America's pastime, and the passion of Christ.

"I think this show gives a nice crosssection of the Momix aesthetic," remarked founder/director/choreographer Moses Pendleton, in a recent phone conversation from company headquarters in Washington, Connecticut. "It has a nice balance of yin and yang, fast and slow, poetic and humorous and mysterious.

"Part of the fun of it is that you have no idea what's coming next," he continued. "It goes back to the old dynamic of a rock album — relatively short pieces, like cuts on an album, within a large theme, and the theme here is Momix, so it works."

Momix's initial show more than 20 years ago was made up of solos and duets and "small moments stitched together," in Pendleton's words, so this show hearkens back to that. Since those early days, the company has performed in more than 20 countries; made five Italian television features that were broadcast to 55 countries (including China and Russia); and has been featured in PBS' Dance in America series, as well as a 3D IMAX film.

The plant and animal worlds remain a primary inspiration for Pendleton — "How the body through props connects with the natural world." His childhood on a Vermont dairy farm gave the company its name — Momix is a milk supplement for field cows — and, combined with the fields of sunflowers he plants each year, still gives him a push toward subjects from nature.

"As an avant-gardener, I'm in the middle of a new piece called Botanica, to premiere in January," he noted. "It draws, of course, on birds and bees and the secret life of trees. I spend most of my time in the garden, doing what I really like to do. So then hopefully that can be an inspiration for my real job, which is putting together dances and directing Momix."

Pendleton calls his dancers "movement illusionists," his productions "dance theater with no spoken word — it's magic and illusionistic, through use of lighting and highly trained bodies doing very interesting things to create a sense of flight, of twisting and turning."

The 10 dancers in the show do a daily ballet class, but also full-body trainings, so they can run animal-like on all fours, hang from a kinetic sculpture by their hands, or grab a pole and propel themselves into the air as if they are weightless. As their director, Pendleton wants to guide his dancers to get in touch with the dynamic of what they are portraying.

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