Roger Durbin | September 22, 2011
MOMIX coming to EJ Thomas Hall
DOWNTOWN AKRON - The dance company MOMIX has been mesmerizing audiences since 1981, and DANCECleveland will present the dancer-illusionists Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. at The University of Akron's E.J. Thomas Hall.
When MOMIX Artistic Director Moses Pendleton was asked in a telephone interview recently what the audience can anticipate during the performance, he said, "Tell them to expect the unexpected." His productions tend to conjure just that response, for Pendleton mixes dancers seamlessly with puppets, supplies from hardware stores and elaborate and overdone costumes. He then turns the performance into a highly visual and mesmerizing experience.
Pendleton gives his dancers a great deal of credit and praise. He bought CVC pipes for the work "Botanica," which will be performed in Akron, and stuck the dancers' arms in them and then told them to learn how to move around and make them work. One headdress for the production weighs 20 pounds and is huge, he said. A dancer has to be both strong enough and agile enough to whirl with the contraption on and make it look right to the audience, he said.
Part of the fun of watching MOMIX is figuring out where the dancer leaves off and the costume or scenery begins, Pendleton said. Some pieces are done on a completely darkened stage with dancers in glowing costumes.
In "Botanica," the audience will see a dancer hidden in the belly of a dinosaur skeleton from where he makes the beast lumber along, but also interact with another dancer in a little pas de deux (duet). Some of the creations the audience will see on stage are women dressed as oversized marigolds and men as jittery hornets, as well as both dressed as night crawlers.
Pendleton said the work follows the pattern of the four seasons, beginning in the dead of winter and flowing through autumn leaves, thereby completing the cycle. In the choreographer's world view, however, nature has its living out, its unfolding, to do and therefore can be as alarming as it can be charming to see. Through Antonio Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" score mixed with some off-the-wall techno music, MOMIX will create lots of "atmosphere" and "tone" of nature having its full-flowing way in the world, he said.
"Botanica" is divided into 24 scenes, each of which has its own arc of meaning (since there really is no narrative value in the piece). Notes from a verse that Pendleton likes is in the playbill to set up the mood and brief outline for what the audience will see. It'll probably be helpful to follow along in order to "get it" during the performance, he said.
Pendleton said it took a year and a half to put "Botanica" together via a series of workshops in various places around the country. The choreographer said he would generally "build pictures" in his head of what he wanted to accomplish and present, and then set about figuring out the rest. Many things he tried ended up being discarded, he said. Pendleton said at the moment he is going through his "discard" file and looking for things to use in upcoming productions.
Ticket prices start at $10 and are available through TicketMaster at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000 or at the Thomas Hall Box Office or by calling 330-972-7570.
Roger Durbin is professor emeritus of bibliography at The University of Akron and board director of the Dance Critics Association. To contact him, email email@example.com