MOMIX opened a three-week engagement on Sept. 23 at The Joyce Theater with Opus Cactus, which was conceived and directed by the company's artistic director, Moses Pendleton.
The group utilizes incredibly imaginative lighting by Joshua Starbuck and Pendleton, and dancers who seem capable of pulling themselves apart and then putting themselves together again. They may seem mainly acrobatic, but there is much more involved, mainly an artistic sense and depth that constantly stimulate the mind.
Opus Cactus presents Pendleton's images of the flora and fauna from the Southwest's Sonoran Desert. The work opens with "Sonoran: But Not Asleep." A man is seen in a hammock that hangs in the air against a star-laden sky. Seemingly in a sound sleep, his restlessness is soon apparent when he commences to perform intricate acrobatics, swinging in and out of the hanging bed. Through his amazing tricks, he even manages to insert a proficient balletic entrechat, and that unexpected touch adds to a sense of fun.
The hammock bounces from high to low and back again and, as the man swings and twists within, we are drawn to the suspenseful sequences that follow.
"Cactus Wren/Morning Star" sees the dancers in steadfast bird-like poses against cacti in movements that can only be assumed to be those of birds at ease. The exception being that the creatures couldn't manage the penché arabesques that the dancers display in some of their firm poses. And still the dancers maintain their resemblance to the conquerors of the air.
When "Pole Dance" opens, three men appear bearing poles, and one questions whether the smoothly rounded woods can support the anticipated acrobatics. Not only do the men manage to mount the poles—no matter how they slant them in all directions—they swing themselves around with feet firmly planted, both sideways and from the top of their poles.
In "Desert Blooms," thin lights that give the illusion of stalks form into lovely ladies turning into glorious desert flowers with swirling skirts as they pivot swiftly around, giving the illusion of petals propelled by a fierce wind.
Not to be outclassed, in "Sidewinder," women in long black dresses, bearing red snakes that they constantly twirl about, resemble a prehistoric ritual. Serpent dances are still being performed in some areas throughout the world. However, we are inclined to doubt that they could be as theatrically effective as the one performed by the ladies of MOMIX.
"Gila Dance" is most stunning. Initially, we see the head of the monster, which seems a solitary figure. But his body is formed by several other dancers, curling, rippling, and crawling along as one complete reptile. At the conclusion, they fall apart with their bodies strewn throughout the stage.
The concluding pieces in the first half of the program, "Tracking the Earth" and "Caravan," see the men gliding across the stage on skateboards while on their stomachs in the first-named work. That feat soon intensifies when, in the second, they not only remain on skateboards, but also bear the women along with them. They stand on top of the men and perform acrobatics while strongly balanced.
Part II commences with "Dream Catcher," in which a man and woman are perched on a figure-eight-like mobile structure of steel. The steel form presents quite a challenge, as the pair performs while swinging along from inside and outside of the constantly moving figure. At the conclusion, they fall off and attention is focused on the mobile structure, now in the center of the stage, still moving and slowly subsiding, almost giving the illusion of a figure of fate.
"Menitation" is a sort of joke on the word "meditation." In this one, the men perform from upside down positions, thoroughly at ease, and seeming to be enjoying themselves as well as the onlookers.
The constant excitement garnered up to this point finds a contrast in "Sundance," in which three ladies wielding huge fans bring serene, poetic portraits to the scene. They manage to frame one another and perform solo stints. At the conclusion, one of the ladies is left alone on stage, moving her fan in figures reminiscent of a peacock opening its colorful tail against a setting sun.
"Big Pole Dance" involves men and women, with the men carrying the women out suspended on horizontal poles. This time, the women bear the brunt of the work, swinging around the poles so swiftly they seem like falling stars.
In "Totem," a huge figure seen in the background with ropes attached to the dancers seems to be manipulating them in puppet-like movements.
"Fire Walker" has a man dancing away nonchalantly even though his shoes are on fire. (The real thing, not ersatz.) This one is guaranteed to leave anyone breathless, while wondering how he manages to perform this incredibly courageous feat without setting himself on fire. The fire dance was choreographed by Brian Sanders.
The concluding work, "First Contact," has three women flying through the air. When the lights go up, the realization that they are attached to cables form the ceiling becomes apparent. They are enabled to swing around as well as against each other swiftly. How they manage to avoid colliding remains a tantalizing mystery.
There are no indications in the program as to who does what. The extraordinary performers listed in one group were Danielle Arico, Jane'l Caropolo, John Corsa, Anthony Heinl, Michael Holdsworth, Amanda Kay, Pi Keohavong, Suzanne Lampl, Heather Magee, Kara Oculato, and Brian Simerson.
MOMIX is a wonderland of fantasy and incredible imagination. This is one of the few times we are compelled to state: "An experience not to be missed. So go and take the kids."
Ballet Nacional de Cuba
Ballet Nacional de Cuba, under the direction of Alicia Alonso, returns to the U.S. on a coast-to-coast tour to celebrate its 55th anniversary. The company returns to New York's City Center from Oct. 15-19.
The company will be performing two programs for its New York engagement: Don Quixote, and a mixed repertory evening comprised of "Canto Vital (Vital Song)" by Azari Plisetski, "Blood Wedding" by Antonio Gades, and "Les Sylphides" stage by Alicia Alonso after Michel Fokine.
Venue: New York City Center, 131 West 55th St., NYC. Performances: Don Quixote will be performed Oct. 15 and 18 at 8 pm, and Oct. 19 at 3 pm; the mixed repertory program will be performed Oct. 16 and 17 at 8 pm, and Oct. 18 at 2 pm. Tickets: $35-$75, available at the City Center box office, by calling CityTix at 1-212-581-1212, or online at www.citycenter.org.
Urban Ballet Theater Returns
Urban Ballet Theater, under the artistic direction of choreographer Daniel Catanach, returns to its home base at New York City's Harry De Jur Playhouse, after a spring and summer of touring, to present its fall season. A concert of new and repertory works will be offered, including the world premiere of "Disillusioned," choreographed by Catanach, featuring guest artist Danny Tidwell from American Ballet Theatre.
Venue: The Harry De Jur Playhouse at the Henry Street Settlement/Abrons Art Center, 466 Grand Street (at Pitt Street), NYC. Performances: Gala Opening Thurs., Oct. 9, at 7:30 pm; Thurs., Oct. 16, and Fri. and Sat. Oct. 10 & 17 and 11 & 18, all at 8 pm; Sun. Oct. 12 and Sat. Oct. 18 at 3 pm. Tickets: $12, $6 for children; Gala tickets cost $25; for ticket reservations call the box office at 1-212-598-0400.