Taking in one of Momix’s spectacular productions, one would imagine that there is a huge warehouse or deluxe studio space out of which the company functions. It seems impossible to build such grand sets and entrancing images in anything less than an airport-sized hangar. And yet, in reality, the company members spend their days rehearsing in a barn on artistic director Moses Pendleton’s property in Connecticut.
“It’s my personal kibbutz,” says Pendleton of the sun-washed studio where he concocts his magical shows.
This week, Momix will present Botanica at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center and then head to Jerusalem for one performance as part of the Israel Festival. Botanica, which took more than 18 months to create, is Pendleton’s interpretation of the four seasons.
“It starts in the dead of winter into the machinations of spring, and as it goes the piece continues to transform. The imagery is drawn from the natural world. It’s Momix’s botanical garden. Hopefully, you are ready to absorb it,” says Pendleton.
For decades, Momix has enjoyed a strong relationship with Israeli theaters. Pendleton’s tie to the country stems back even further, to his days as one of the founding members of Pilobolus Dance Theater.
“I came to Israel during the Yom Kippur war in 1975 to perform for the Israeli air force. It was an extraordinary experience,” he recalls.
In recent years, Momix has been to Israel with Lunar Sea, a black-lit world of drifting limbs somewhere under the sea and in the skies; and Opus Cactus, an exploration of the creatures of the desert.
As with any Momix production, illusion plays a major role in Botanica. Dancers morph from lovely ladies to crawling creepers in the blink of an eye, taking the audience through Pendleton’s vision of the environment.
“The town where I live was originally called Judea. So I live here as Moses wandering the Judean hills looking for signs,” he says.
The regular hikes Pendleton enjoys in the woods surrounding his house inspired many of the images in Botanica.
On the day that we spoke, he was just about to head down for a swim in the lake to “learn about water to become a dolphin.”
Without a doubt, the deep well of images that Momix portrays on stage is only a fraction of the rich wildlife inside Pendleton’s imagination.
The company is currently working on a new piece about alchemy.
Switching from flora to fire, Pendleton has tapped into a world of mythology and mysticism that thrills him.
“I have used alchemy as a metaphor for the Momix process many times. To take on alchemy, you have to have enough courage to throw things together, to deal with the elements. I’m taking fire, water, air and earth and mixing them in an alchemical way. I’m working with new technology to create the illusion of a pagan bonfire, a spring festival.”
Wielding the elements is one of Momix’s strong points. Regardless of the subject at hand, Momix productions are always entertaining, deeply physical and full of energy.
“The drawing point of Momix is that we go out beyond the dance world. Our work is visual with sensuality, humor and beauty. It is very positive work in these dark ages. The world is full of negative notions. We try to offer a bit of escape. We are suffering a global energy crisis, and maybe this can give some needed energy,” explains Pendleton. “It makes a connection to the mystery and magic of nature like with the human body. We never know what we are until we scratch the surface and find out that we’re part armadillo.”
Momix will perform on June 8 and 9 at TAPAC (www.israel-opera.co.il) and at the Jerusalem Theater on June 10 (www.israel-festival.org.il).