A garden of MOMIX delights on Zoellner Arts Center stage
Moses Pendleton calls himself an "avant-gardener," who likes to see things grow, and uses this principle in his dance choreography.
Pendleton founded and is artistic director of MOMIX, an internationally-known avant-garde dance company, which performs "Botanica," 7 p.m. Nov. 4, Baker Hall, Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University, Bethlehem.
Erin Cassano, a former MOMIX company manager, gives a free pre-show lecture, "MOMIX from the Inside."
Pendleton calls on "the power of nature to make contact with animal, plant and mineral because," he says, "they have voices well worth listening to."
Pendleton was also a founding member of Pilobulus, derived from a word to describe a sun-loving fungus that grows on cow manure. MOMIX is said to be named after a feed supplement for calves. Pendelton still bases MOMIX in Washington, Conn.
Pendleton grew up on a dairy farm in Northern Vermont, formed Pilobulus while attending Dartmouth College in the 1970s and, after creating choreography for the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid in 1980, formed MOMIX in 1981.
"Botanica" strives to "reveal nature's changing imagery" and has an organic energy that takes the audience on a fanciful ride through the seasons.
Five female and five male dancers use props, shadows and the human body to create memorable images.
During a recent phone interview, the vibrant Pendleton speaks vivaciously of his garden of 10,000 sunflowers and also his growing of luminescent marigolds. Pendleton says he spends 90 percent of his day in the garden and uses this medium to transform and sow his work on the stage. This is "Botanica."
According to Pendleton, flora inspires his imagery for "Botanica," which is "a magical botanical garden of delightful elements of surprise." Pendleton also describes his work as "sensual." Seeing "Botanica" will make you leave the theater with "a little less gravity in your stride," he says.
"Botanica" is a dance piece that "moves fast," says Pendleton, with 20 vignettes. In the work, beginning in the dead of winter, there is a beautiful scene where a fantasy tree flower transforms from the shape of a morning glory to a seashell. All the while, the dancers get caught up in the material engulfing the stage. This transformation is the catalyst for the beginning of spring: "There is nothing but energy to harvest," says Pendleton.
The work moves through the four seasons, using 32 different pieces of music, from Antonio Vivaldi to Peter Gabriel, and even bird songs. A triceratops skeleton created by Mike Curry ("The Lion King"), who created the piece's props and costumes, is in another segment.
Other highlights of "Botanica" include "The Marigold Quintet," with bright orange tutus to attract male hornets. A soloist on a slanted mirror creates shapes in her reflection.
At one point, undulating tubes extend from the arms of the dancers, creating a giant sea anemone. There is even a magical element of human centaurs using two dancers hooked to each other.
Another soloist twirls with bead strands on a head-dress that is like a delicate spider web. Of course, there are sunflowers made into big fans that make a great summer scene. There is a very acrobatic piece and another with dancers playing finches on roller skates.
This is "Botanica," said to be MOMIX's most ambitious multi-media work to date.