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'You never know when you're going to be attacked by an idea," says choreographer Moses Pendleton. Israeli audiences will get to see several of Pendleton's highly original ideas when his Connecticut-based company, MOMIX, tours Best of MOMIX to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba in July. The program is, according to Pendleton, "a compilation of several highlights from several programs put together like a rock music album."
Few dance companies can pull off a greatest hits show - but MOMIX can. Over its 29-year history, the company has produced a string of works that are not only successful but wildly inventive. Best of MOMIX features eye-catching excerpts from Lunar Sea, Opus Cactus, Momix in Orbit and the company's latest creation, Botanica.
MOMIX has become so popular that it sometimes tours two productions at once, captivating audiences around the globe with visual magic and a performance style that resists categorization.
Rather than labeling his work modern dance, Pendleton laughingly terms his style "Momixian." The choreographer elaborates, "MOMIX is a kind of dance that incorporates elements of physical theater, visual theater, athletic dance, some modern dance and a little ballet here and there. But it in itself as a title, a mixture - almost a mix of a lot of different art forms, hence the word MOMIX."
Pendleton also draws from a mix of sources for inspiration. "Much of our information comes not from the dance studio but from the natural world: the plant, animal, mineral and seeing how the human is connected to other forms in nature," he explains. Ideas can strike while strolling in gardens, walking in the desert or spending a day at the lake.
The challenge is then to craft theatrical, movement-based art from these natural sources. Often, Pendleton adds, "It's a sunflower that is dancing or a snake that is performing or it is something else, some other image, not necessarily a person." Sometimes several dancers join forces with meticulously arranged movements to portray one character, like the rattlesnake in Opus Cactus.
To transform MOMIX's members into non-human creatures, Pendleton relies not only on his dancers' remarkable coordination but on creative visual design. At times clever lighting contributes to the performers' metamorphosis. In Lunar Sea, for instance, black light produces an other-worldy atmosphere.
But most frequently, ingenious and whimsical props are at the heart of the special effects. MOMIX's dancers expertly manipulate enormous kinetic sculptures, oversized skis, twenty-pound beaded headdresses and exercise balls. As they soar through the air, tilt at extreme angles, twirl and bounce, the dancers not only assume other shapes from nature but appear nearly superhuman. Their already amazing acrobatic abilities are extended by the props and the results can prove jaw-dropping.
Even as the productions ascend into the realm of playful fantasy, Pendleton asserts that MOMIX remains strongly connected to the human experience. "I think that part of our humanity is making those connections to things beyond the human," he notes. The choreographer also recognizes the value of making art that is witty, invigorating, entertaining, and imaginative. "Fantasy is an integral part of reality," Pendleton explains. "It's part of our health, education and welfare. There are reflections of fantasy in the show, and I think it's inspiring for people to see even in a depressed world."
With that in mind, Pendleton believes that "if people go away with a little less gravity in their step, then it's been a successful evening."
At the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center on July 1 and 2 at 9 p.m. and July 3 at 1 p.m.; (03) 692-7777. At the Jerusalem Theater on July 5 at 9 p.m.; (02) 560-5755. At the Haifa Auditorium on July 7 at 9 p.m.; (04) 841-8411. And, at the Beersheba Center for the Performing Arts on July 8 at 9 p.m.; (08) 623-6041.
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