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Kerry Clawson  |  September 18, 2011

DANCECleveland season kicks off in Akron with innovative MOMIX

E.J. Thomas Hall will be mixing things up this fall with a performance by MOMIX, a company of dancer-illusionists who will kick off DANCECleveland's 55th season Oct. 1 in Akron.

The performance will mark the start of a sixth year of collaboration among the University of Akron, E.J. Thomas and the Cleveland dance presenter, which began in 2006 when the Parsons Dance Company performed here on the heels of UA opening its new high-tech dance center. That relationship was a springboard for bringing nationally known dance ensembles to Akron each year.

This year, UA's Neil Sapienza was interested in presenting nontraditional partnering. That would be a big understatement for MOMIX, which will perform Moses Pendleton's latest creation, the evening-length Botanica. The piece incorporates costumes, projections and props to create a mythical landscape that follows the rhythms of the seasons, evolution of the world and passing of a day.

Audiences will see everything from dancers who look like they're emerging from giant flowers to a performer transformed by a huge dinosaur skeleton puppet. The costumes, projections and props were created by Tony Award-winner Michael Curry, who created the puppets and masks for The Lion King. The vision, which has been described as an IMAX version of dance theater, is tied together by Pendleton's interest in photography and multimedia.

The piece, performed to an eclectic score ranging from bird songs to Vivaldi, promises to astonish and mesmerize as it explores the world's flora and fauna.

"On the cool spectrum, it's at the top of the top," said Pam Young, executive director of DANCECleveland.

Pendleton, MOMIX's founder 30 years ago, was a co-founder of Pilobolus at Dartmouth College. His company is an offshoot of Pilobolus. Pendleton, who grew up on a farm in Vermont, named MOMIX after a brand of cow feed. The troupe last performed Lunar Sea to black lights in Cleveland four years ago.

Tickets range from $10 to $50. They can be purchased at the E.J. Thomas Hall box office, 330-972-7570, or at or 800-745-3000.

Subscriptions for the 2011-2012 DANCECleveland season start at $91.50 for three performances. Packages may be purchased at 216-992-9000 or The remainder of the shows will be at the Ohio Theatre and State Theatre at PlayhouseSquare.

Here's the rest of the season:

Aszure Barton and Artists, 8 p.m. Oct. 29, Ohio Theatre, Cleveland. Barton, a native of Canada and a Mikhail Baryshnikov protg, will have her troupe's Cleveland debut. The dancers will become street entertainers in her Busk, set to live gypsy music by Lev Ljova Zhurbin and recorded choral music. "She is clearly a choreographer to watch," Young said of Barton.

Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company, 8 p.m. Jan. 28 and 3 p.m. Jan. 29, Ohio Theatre. The Israeli troupe, founded by Pinto and Pollak in 1992, will present its masterwork Oyster, featuring 12 dancer/actors. They will create a circus world where performers alternately become puppets or puppeteers in a dance that combines ballet, contemporary dance, mime and acrobatics.

Ballet Memphis, 8 p.m. March 10 and 3 p.m. March 11, Ohio Theatre. The company of 19 dancers, celebrating its 25th anniversary, will perform a repertory program including Trey McIntyre's In Dreams, Jane Comfort's S'epaniour, Steve McMahon's Being Here and Julia Adams' Curtain of Green. The company, which emphasizes female choreographers, will make its Cleveland debut.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, 8 p.m. May 4 and 5, 3 p.m. May 6, State Theatre. Presented by PlayhouseSquare in partnership with DANCECleveland. Young expects these performances to drive subscription sales. Known as one of the world's greatest dance companies, the troupe incorporates popular music, gospel and jazz with a fusion of modern dance and ballet. The company, which was formed in 1958, is known for its explosive energy and athleticism. Robert Battle took the helm of the company in July, following the retirement of Judith Jamison.

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or

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