MOMIX blooms in Philly

May 19, 2010

Lewis Whittington
EDGE Contributor
Wednesday May 19, 2010

The celebrated dance troupe MOMIX returns to the Annenberg Center to cap the Dance Celebration season this weekend. In their latest they are transforming the theater into the world of Botanica -- a fantastic evocation of the nature to a soundtrack that runs from Vivaldi to bird songs and New Age sounds. The show follows in the imaginative spirit of such MOMIX hit shows as Baseball, Orbit and Passion.

Artistic director and MOMIX founder Moses Pendleton, in Philly coincidently to receive an honorary doctorate at the University of the Arts, said just as their hit Opus Cactus recreated a desert vistas (not to mention that unforgettable five man lizard), Botanica explores the hidden flora and fauna of backyard gardens.

He collaborated with designer Michael Curry (The Lion King) to create the show’s phantasmagorical look into the natural world. The elaborate stagecraft of costumes, props and film interact with and the morphic creatures otherwise known as MOMIX dancers.

Show still evolving

The choreographer took a break from writing his acceptance speech to talk about the show. "I’m struggling to come up with the words for my speech. That’s why I choreograph," he joked.

He said that even though Botanica is a year-and-a-half old, it is still evolving. "We’re still working on the details."

Pendleton began the show almost by accident when he was with Curry in Las Vegas where they were putting together a show for a hotel water show that was never produced. "Mercedes Benz hired us them to come up with an ecological theme for an auto show in Frankfurt," he recalled. It produced more material they could use. Two years of gathering props, costumes and ideas evolved into Botanica.

What was most necessary was for the costumes move with the dancers. "It’s quite fanciful and just a parade of props. Part of the essence of MOMIX is that we use effects and costumes that extend a dancers’ range of motion to create new movement imagery."

But he was concerned that some of the costumes were so large they would be too static for the movement he intended. "We started experimenting them and how we could move it them, and made them flexible for choreography."

Botanica uses music from Vivaldi’s Four Season as a loose thematic; to that Pendleton adds other music and environmental sound fields. He also created video design of HD back projections. He describes some of the effects using fabric, video feedback and strobe lights to create such effects as a visual of an August storm, a 20-pound headdress of beads that evolves into a cobweb, an unexpected solar flair, and of course, those marigold tutus.

"This is a visual spectacle. We’re not trying to make a statement, but this is very eco-conscious. Our contact with the natural world that inspires humanity in us."