By Christina Sears-Etter, MFA. All rights reserved.
June 26, 2014, Ann Arbor MI, USA
On Saturday June 21st I attended Momix’s Concert Work “Botanica” with
hundreds of other audience members at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Annual
Season. I had attended Momix’s Concert once before, close to the time of its founding,
and was familiar with their style which I thought ( at the time,) was overly gimmick-based
and commercial. However, times have changed, as have I, and Momix has
continued to evolve. And Moses Pendelton’s company has withstood the test of time,
achieving 7 major shows, an international presence, and critical acclaim. The company
is a major source of employment for today’s contemporary movement performer.
Rivaled by, and compared to, Cirque du Soleil, and Pilobolus, the company in which
Artistic Director Moses Pendelton was a founding member, Momix remains a major
creative force in the American Dance Scene. Yet, none of the dancer-illusionist
performers are mentioned by name either on the program, or on the company’s website.
Who are these unknown artists who make the vision of these shows a reality? I got the
opportunity to speak with three of these artists and clarify the creative process of
Botanica, and was able to ask some questions about how the company operates. These
insights can be shared in a future post.
Without a doubt, Momix has been able to flourish as a for-profit enterprise, touring Arts
Centers and University Campuses, and establishing relationships with corporations
such as Hanes, Target and other businesses. The opulent and stunning shows evoke a
range of positive responses from participants.
One audience member, a papa who runs a video and photo company which catering to
the performing arts, remarked while scooping up his four year old that Botanica is “a
feast for the eyes.”
With photographic projections of the natural world, stunning costume and props,
extremely skilled and athletic dancers, the event “Botanica” is indeed a stunner. In this
post, I will write abut several of the most successful performance scenes. However, must mention that a few of the scenes felt overly long and simple in their illusions. For example the black-light and florescent “bugs”: a clever but overly extended celebration of black light and the abstraction of neon costume accents and visual-effect movement. At one point the dancers (how many? Who knows? No program accompanied Botanica!) made a smiley face and then a frown-y face with their body parts. This was early in the program, and presented a moment of potential discomfort for any audience older than pre-school age. But the scene passed, and the show evolved, and I’ve chosen to write about the most successful moments.
Orange puffball blossoms (Dahlias? Giant marigolds?) rotate and flirt agains a green leafy projection on the cyclorama. The dancers begin on the floor, a colorful fantasia in their stylized stillness and perfect illusion. This opening image invites the audience into a fantastical journey. There are parallels to vaudeville here, but the company operates within a strong artistic vision, and every aspect of the dancers’ performance is perfect. Mr. Pendelton’s impact on Pilobolus is clear in several of these theatrical scenes. This
barrage of orange blossoms is broken up by a quintet of bees. Five men with abstracted
bee costumes enter facing front with a set of two rod props, each, quivering in the air at
a fast rate. The image of a swarm of bees is so convincing and enjoyable to watch. The
five men cavort, dip, spin and make petty plays for power in extremely short duets
employing contact and minute manipulations. The dancers’ display exemplary technique
in the material, which is tight, eccentric, and well, the bee’s knees! I’m not fond of bees
and this compelling little vignette made me a ready fan!
Again and again, Mr. Pendelton and his Company of Dance Artists treated us to
fantastical scenes, created with the highest level of theatricality. The image below
captures a scene of beautiful abstraction. One imagines the dancers to be sunflowers
on a hot summer afternoon. There were over 20 dance theatre scenes in Botanica, and each stood alone, taking the audience on a wild ride. The extension of the body through use of costume, props, brilliant lighting and sound design, made Botanica a memorable and inspiring evening. The company is not performing again in North America for quite awhile, judging from the dancers’ comments and the website calendar.
I urge any dance aficionado and fan to be sure to catch Momix at their next theatre