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MOMIX Takes On Baseball

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I must confess that I approached MOMIX's conception of Baseball with trepidation, for I know zilch about that or any other ballgame. Athletics simply are not my thing.

Still, I was slightly encouraged by something I recalled reading by someone who had worked as both sportswriter and music critic for a newspaper. This person thought sports and performing arts have much in common, in that both display intensive training and extensive technique. I also remembered that quite a while back, I knew a couple of balletomanes who were also ardent baseball fans. So there I was at The Joyce Theater viewing Baseball, which was conceived and directed by MOMIX Artistic Director Moses Pendleton.

Rest assured that you won't be viewing a game from the bleachers, nor an authentic game played out before your eyes. What is evident is Pendleton's boundless sense of humor, as he sees the peccadilloes as well as the bristling energy involved through the ages, commencing from the cave era.

Pendleton could convince anyone that the sport must have had its origins before man learned to walk and talk. We see the caveman crouched close to earth with a ball, which is smacked about by a roughhewn club. I was thoroughly convinced that even in prehistoric times, they could grunt or mime as to who scored, and get into one hell of a row.

Throughout, a man appears encased as a huge baseball, constantly knocked about and walloped by the others. Since his costume is amply layered, he escapes being bruised. In one instance, he even appears on roller blades in an effort to get away, but the group always manages to corner him.

Don't attempt to figure out who or what that figure represents. However, he does add reams of fun to the combustion, as he remains a blithe spirit despite his travails.

And the ladies get into the act. They come on wielding bats, but they are not about to play ball. Nor can they be seen as batboys. Their mission here is to work the bats into dazzling flying patterns, and this they accomplish with the ease and grace of skilled jugglers.

Later on, a projection conceived by Pendleton featuring a dance of the balls is another of the highlights. But there is still more to come where these objects are concerned, when one of the ladies handling a large ball manages to float it about with the ease of a conjurer.

A couple of the gals are well into the humor department when they imitate the antics of those youngsters who go bonkers over the baseball players and climb all over them. Not that the guys aren't favorable to their antics, no matter how pesky they may become.

In the sequence titled "The Umpire Strikes Back," we are in the midst of what would seem to be a chronic state between players and the decision makers. They don't exactly come to blows here, but only manage to paste brows together at the conclusion of the dispute, which is sufficiently rib tickling.

Forms representing a huge horseshoe split in half prove a clever device in which to enclose opposing teams who, with the addition of strobe lighting, set some of the authentic action of the game.

You don't have to know anything about baseball to realize that beer is very much a part of the game. The concession, as anyone knows, brings in the big bucks. In Pendleton's conception of beer, we witness the most outrageously comic scene of all. The players are ensconced in huge beer cans, guzzling away. Inevitably, they fall out of the cans dead drunk and the cans fall after them.

Through all the hectic maneuvers, Baseball manages to conclude with a heartfelt tribute to one of the most revered of baseball celebrities, Mickey Mantle, titled "Requiem for a Slugger." The angelic sculptural figures of those who hover over the tomb slowly come to life and unfold into a dance of elegiac lyricism.

Pendleton doesn't focus specifically on the game; that would be too easy. But he has captured the spirit with such intensity that he has succeeded in arousing my interest to the extent that I am planning to attend the real thing, accompanied by a maven who can clarify the whole shmier for me.

Again, the dancers, all of them sparkling, were listed in one group so that I couldn't tell who did what. For the record, they were Steve Gonzales, Suzanne Lampl, Ari Loeb, Natalie Lomonte, Heather Magee, Cynthia Quinn, and Brian Simerson.

Brendan McCall's 'Draftwork'

The fall 2003 Draftwork series opens with a work-in-progress performance of three new works by Brendan McCall. This series of free informal Saturday afternoon performances affords choreographers an opportunity to show evolving works. Performances are followed by discussions and informal receptions that allow the artist and audience a greater perspective on the other's viewpoint.

Venue: St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery Danspace Project, 131 East 10th St. (at Second Avenue), NYC. Performance: Sat., Oct. 18 at 3 pm. Tickets: Admission is free, reservations are suggested and may be made by calling the box office at 1-212-674-8194, or online at www.danspaceproject.org.

On Isadora Duncan

Julia Levien, now 90 years young, will present her distinctive talk and slide presentation on the dance legend. Ms. Levien has devoted her life to the transmission of the Duncan legacy. An original member of the Anna and Irma Duncan companies, she has performed and lectured internationally.

This special event begins with an informal showing of selected Duncan repertoire by members of Dances for Isadora, directed in this performance by Catherine Gallant. Following the dancing will be Ms. Levien's presentation of archival materials, as well as anecdotes, memories, and personal narrative harvested from a lifetime in dance spanning nearly a century. Proceeds will benefit both Murray Street Studio and Dances by Isadora.

Venue: Murray Street Studio, 19 Murray St., 3rd fl. (between Broadway and Church streets in TriBeCa), NYC. Performance: Sun., Oct. 26 at 4 pm. Tickets: $20, $10 for students, call 1-212-766-5883 for reservations and information.

92nd St. Y Free Fridays at Noon

The 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center begins the fall season Fridays at Noon series. All performances take place at the 92nd Street Y from 12noon-1 pm and are free and open to the public. For further information, call 1-212-415-5552. The 92nd Street Y is located on Manhattan's Upper East Side at 1395 Lexington Ave. (at East 92nd Street).

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