I know virtually nothing about “Dance” but I do love dancing. While I lack any training to tackle the resolutely uncategorizable dance company MOMIX from a technical angle, I do appreciate fun stuff when I see it filling a stage.
MOMIX is fun. The company’s return to the Joyce Theatre here in New York City is by now an annual frolic. This season — MOMIX’s 36th overall — the sole focus is a revival of Opus Cactus; founder and choreographer Moses Pendleton’s evening-long celebration of the American Southwest. Every conceivable desert-centric aspect of this decisively rugged American wilderness is given terpsichorean dimension by Pendleton and his extraordinary dancers, bringing to the Joyce stage “giant saguaros, tumbleweeds, fire dancers, cactus wrens, and a slithering Gila monster.” I quote here from the company’s own press literature because, while I sort of knew most of the time what the hell I was looking at, some of the time your guess would be as good as mine. Still, it all added up to a shape-shifting fantasmagoria of twilit desert frivolities.
For me, MOMIX channels the imaginative power of very small children jumping around under a very big blanket, conjuring strange and wonderful creatures. It all suggests Disney’s Fantasia in real time with actual human beings doing the work of animation cells. Try to not think of pink elephants in tutus.
The entire adventure is delivered with tremendous imagination, both in terms of costumes and allusive choreography. The stage illusions are magical but the movement is executed with technique to burn, I would ignorantly assay. Even decked out in lizard outfits or slithering snake formations that jam writhing dancers head-to-butt-to-head-to-butt-to-head, balletic beauty is always somehow on display, ramped up with fierce gymnastic extravagance.
The ensemble leaps about with awesome physical dexterity. Here and there the overall impact does tip toward a Vegas-type wonderment. Let’s face it, the deployment of human beings and their bodies to create elaborate physical tableaus, though as old as Ziegfeld, is not for everybody. My younger daughter Sara — whose dance teacher, Suzanne, is an illustrious and still-impressively flexible MOMIX alumnus — loved every minute. My older daughter Lea actually asked to leave the theater because MOMIX was creeping her out. I acceded and understood. For some, a dancer should just be a dancer, not a cactus or a Gila monster. One’s capacity for MOMIX is entirely subjective. Nevertheless, within MOMIX’s circus-like dance realm, in my humble, less-than-informed opinion, it really couldn’t get any better.