Intriguing, beautiful ‘Viva Momix’ opens Pittsburgh Dance Council season
To celebrate an anniversary, an artistic organization needs something at once special and also entirely characteristic of its identity. Pittsburgh Dance Council will kick off its 50th anniversary season with Momix, the highly innovative and internationally successful American modern dance company.
“Momix is visual, physical theater that doesn’t tell stories,” say founder and artistic director Moses Pendleton. “We present hopefully evocative vignettes that are kind of like a stream of surreal vaudeville acts that use light and shadows, props and costumes, and various kinds of music to elevate the audience. If people can walk out with a little less gravity in their step, then everyone’s happy.”
“Viva Momix” will open the Pittsburgh Dance Council season on Sept. 21 at Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater. Dance Council is part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
Pendleton was 18 when co-founded the Pilobolus dance company in 1971. “We capitalized on our escapist attitudes,” he says. He formed his own troupe, Momix, in 1980.
“Viva Momix” was created for the company’s 35th birthday celebration, which was given at the Teatro Nazionale in Milan, Italy, where the company had made its debut. The show is a collection of excerpts from its six major productions plus some new pieces created for the occasion. Each piece has a beginning, a middle and an end, like a song Pendleton says, with the sequence of numbers arranged for overall flow, like a well-planned album of music.
Ideas are all around
When asked how he’s maintained his high level of creativity, Pendleton says, “You can never tell when you’ll be attacked by an idea.”
One of the new works, “Light Reigns,” was inspired by seeing a Christmas tree with streaming lights as he was skiing in Colorado. He imagined a very visual, strange and ethereal dance.
“Daddy Long Legs” is a comic trio with the dancers on short stilts and dressed up as gauchos performing to Argentine music. Pendleton says its quite virtuosic and calls for the men to do pirouettes on pointe.
The repertoire pieces include a famous quintet from “Botanica,” which Momix perform on the Dance Council season eight years ago. The dancers wear petticoats in orange stacked on themselves that look like large marigolds, and which change appearance as they move up and down on the bodies.
“The Dream Catcher” from “Cactus” is a large kinetic sculpture using the premise of a large wheel for a pas de deux. It employs black light, magic and illusion.
People often wonder where creative people get their ideas. The answer is not the same for all artists.
“Delving into the unconscious is for me a physical pursuit,” says Pendleton. “I try to create a state of non-thought and be wired when I walk in the wilderness. The ideas keep coming, like in a meditation. I do a lot of work on my bicycle, with my mp3 player hooked to my helmet. As I’m pedaling and getting endorphin rushes, I see many pictures which I try to describe verbally and then translate into dance theater forms.”
Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.