If dance is an oft under appreciated art form, then it is certainly helpful, as a dance company, to be known for being exceptionally inventive and creating overwhelming spectacles of physical beauty. In its 38 years of existence MOMIX, a company of dancer-illusionists that tour the world, has done just this.
Under the direction of company founder Moses Pendleton, MOMIX brings its latest piece, Opus Cactus, to the Flato Markham Theatre on Oct. 11.
“I never know exactly what I’m doing, but I do have faith that something will get done,” laughs Pendleton.
His understatement might be charming but MOMIX has certainly gotten a lot done. In addition to touring their innovative stage performances worldwide for decades, The company has worked extensively in television with its work being broadcast to 55 countries and winning an International Emmy Award. MOMIX was also featured in IMAGINE, one of the first 3-D IMAX films to be released in theatres around the globe.
It may seem obvious, but the key to Pendleton’s success is his relentless drive to create something picturesque out of movement. As a result, he adds human understanding to decidedly non-human environments.
“That is what dance is for me,” explains Pendleton, “The human making contact with the non-human: the plant, the animal, the mineral.”
In Opus Cactus, the curious life of a desert is explored. Five men and five women bring dynamic images of cactus, slithering lizards and fire dancers to life against a soundscape featuring music from many desert cultures.
“It started out as all native American sound but it has expanded to include some aboriginal and Arabic sounds,” continues Pendleton. “We wanted to not just be limited to an American desert but also get the feeling of deserts around the world.”
The result is a wholly different dance experience.
“The illusion, really, is that you cannot believe you are seeing what you are seeing,” says Pendleton. “There’s a certain amount of optical confusion that’s built into the show and adds to the excitement.”
Pendleton’s background is originally in athletics. He attended Dartmouth College as a skier, after his father’s death led him to give up on his dream of raising the perfect Holstein-Friesian cow. While recuperating from a broken leg, he took a dance class and never looked back.
“My pathway to dance was mostly a series of accidents,” he says with a chuckle.
It’s that sense of athleticism, however, that leads him to use multiple bodies as a team to create surreal visuals.
“There are no rules for us when it comes to movement,” says Pendleton. “We’re concerned with whether it’s exciting and moves musically and truthfully. It’s always the greatest struggle to make things look easy.”
Of course, when something complicated looks easy, it usually isn’t. MOMIX is a complicated organization onstage and off, as Opus Cactus is just one of multiple shows they tour simultaneously for hundreds of performances around the world each year.
“We’re very busy here in the barn,” says Pendleton. “There’s a lot of nuts and bolts reality that goes into turning my dreams into an international dance company.”
Looking to the future, his next piece is a exploration of the world from Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland. This might sound like a departure for a company the specializes in bringing nature to life onstage, as there is little natural about Alice’s fantasies, but Pendleton’s assessment of the show he’s bringing to town this October makes it seem downright logical.
“I think we paint a picture of how the world might be in a fantasy or a dream; hopefully not a nightmare,” he explains. “The audience only needs to expect the unexpected.”
Opus Cactus is at the Flato Markham Theatre on Oct. 11. Tickets are available by calling 905-305-7469 or by clicking here.