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March 13, 2018

momix opus cactus _ cactus wren _ morning starOpus Cactus

Reviewed March 12, 2018

NAC Southam Hall, Ottawa

(Repeat performance March 13, 8 p.m.)

Moses Pendleton brings his unusual company of dancer-illusionists to Ottawa this week to present a vintage work with a new look.

momix opus cactus _ sundance 2

Focusing on the American southwest desert landscape, Opus Cactus comprises a series of 18 vignettes rife with such imagery as tumbleweeds, cacti, snakes and strange alien-like creatures, and natural earthy sounds of wind, birds and magical chimes.

momix opus cactus _ sidewinder

The nearly two-hour work (with intermission) is an innovative performance by super athletic dancers, who contort and entwine their bodies in such as way as to create natural and animal/insect-like images against remarkably simple hot sun or wispy cloud backdrops. Inventive lighting by Pendleton, Joshua Starbuck and John Finen III, puppetry by Michael Curry and Phoebe Katzin’s costumes create an overall film-like quality to the presentation that results in a highly entertaining piece of theatre.

MOMIX, or rather Pendleton, goes back to 1971, when he and a group of fellow students in Connecticut started the American modern dance company Pilobolus, named after a fungus. The small troupe was extraordinary then, defying anatomical logic with their bizarrely entangled bodies.

Ten years later, Pendleton founded MOMIX, named after a milk supplement fed to animals. His choreography combines acrobatics, gymnastics and mime with dance in theatrical settings.

Opus Cactus originated as a much shorter 20-minute work in 2001 for the Ballet Arizona and was revived last year as a full work.

All in all, it’s a delightful evening of desert-landscape-come-to-life, full of surprises and fun.

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