By Mae G. Banner
Proctor’s Theater, Jan. 18
Moses Pendleton’s crowd-pleasing recipe for MOMIX combines
two parts Cirque du Soleil, a splash of Michael Moschen, a
sprinkling of Mummenschantz, and a whiff of vaudeville. It’s
an enticing cocktail that kept me and a nearly full house
at Proctor’s watching and wondering how these sleek dancers
accomplish their gravity-defying illusions.
The eight-member troupe includes Pendleton, who’s been dancing
and choreographing since 1971, when he cofounded Pilobolus
with three Dartmouth buddies. Ten years later, Pendleton split
off to form MOMIX, who have built an international following
with their gymnastic moves and light- and prop-driven illusions.
Where Pilobolus plays a contortionist game of interlocking
bodies to create nonhuman shapes, MOMIX goes more for the
magician’s allure. Dancers in skin-tight costumes spin in
and out of darkness lofting giant balloons or gleaming hoops.
Their dances are more about momentum than meaning. If you
like Pilobolus, you probably like MOMIX, too.
The MOMIX in Orbit program shows off the dancers’ amazing
control and stamina. The current members, who’ve been with
the troupe for only two or three years, are mostly ballet
trained, but the acrobatic choreography—all created over the
years by Pendleton and former MOMIX dancers—makes only fleeting
reference to ballet moves.
In Spawning, a trio of women who seemed to float beneath
huge pale blue balloons moved with delicate strength in beautiful
backward-skimming bourrées. Later, they squeezed the balloons
between their legs as they circled in chain turns. Finally,
the women lay flat on their backs and let the balloons float
up into galactic darkness.
The dark, starry backdrop reappeared in Dreamcatcher,
the evening’s most captivating dance. Ari Loeb and Natalie
Lomonte stepped in and out of a lovely construction of intersecting
bamboo parabolas, an otherworldly Tilt-a-Whirl that the dancers
propelled solely through shifting their weight. The object
made heartlike and elongated flower-petal shapes as the dancers
took their magical ride.
a duet for Sara Kappraff and Tim Melady, exemplified the MOMIX
aesthetic: not about love, but leverage. The dancers make
spider shapes, testing the laws of weight and motion. He grabs
her by one taut leg and pulls her onto his back and over one
shoulder, then sets her spinning on her butt.
An eye-popping solo presented a male dancer as a diver, working
his arms and scissoring his legs out and in powerfully, his
feet never leaving the floor. In another tour de force, Todd
Burnsed and Nicole Loizides, sheathed head-to-toe in silvery
stretch fabric, seesawed on pairs of skis. Every effortful
ripple of their torsos was almost painfully apparent in this
highly athletic stunt dance.
Unlike ballet or modern dance, most MOMIX dances are without
nuance or musicality, which is the dancer’s own expressive
phrasing. Like aerialists, MOMIX dancers must keep perfect,
predictable timing to remain in synch with each other, their
props and the music. The choreography is a string of repetitive
moves, which typically increase in speed or difficulty, then
fade out in darkness.
The music, mostly electronic, is by composers like Peter Gabriel,
and performed by groups like OPIK, Dead Can Dance and Art
of Noise. One welcome “ringer” was a hilarious solo, The
Last Vaudevillian, danced by Lomonte to Judy Bressler’s
exuberant singing of the Yiddish theater song “Rumania,” performed
by the Klezmer Conservatory Band. The dancer, in a loose-fitting
black suit topped with an outsize puppet head, flipped upside
down and banged that head on the floor every time Bressler
sang the word Setz. I wondered if the dancer was upside
down inside the costume, and therefore actually stamping her
feet to that raucous beat. Who knows?
Two full-company dances wound up the evening. In Sputnik,
three men with long poles set into motion a red-haired goddess
who’s kneeling in a big metal paella pan. The goddess snakes
her arms as she spins, while three women ride the poles like
meat on a spit. Sputnik looked like fun to do, but
also looked cheesy on stage.
C. (does it mean “Engineering Corps?” or “Extra-Celestial?”)
borrowed from Mummenschantz to present evolving shadows that
separated and merged behind a pair of white sheets to form
weird shapes: towering giants with long legs that kick off
from their bodies; headless creatures with huge hips; hermaphrodites;
The audience gave a standing ovation to the dancers, who appeared,
one by one, in a dancing encore that allowed us to appreciate
each of them on their own as limber movers, good-looking and