MOMIX hits Edmonton for the first time, bringing the magic and heat of the Sonoran with it
Starting in 1981, MOMIX has done for dance what Cirque du Soleil has done for acrobatics. The troupe tours seven whimsical full-length shows, each of which awe and inspire international audiences with themes encompassing much of the natural world such as seas, gardens, and deserts, barring a few exceptions.
Meaning composition or large-scale work, MOMIX’s ‘Opus,’ brought to Edmonton by the Alberta Ballet, originally started as a 20-minute piece for Ballet Arizona in 1999, choreographed by the prolific and downright brilliant Moses Pendleton, artistic director of the company.
A journey into the American southwest, Pendleton likens the now two-hour Opus Cactus to a twilight walk through the mysterious and at times dangerous Sonoran desert as it comes to life in the coolness of the night. He was particularly inspired by the tree-like saguaro cacti that accent the otherwise uninterrupted red sand hills and cerulean skies of the Sonoran desert that covers the southwestern corner of Arizona, Baja California, and into Mexico’s northern state of Sonora.
“When day turns to night, those giant saguaro cacti start looking more like your uncle than a cactus and they take on a whole other dimension,” he says. “There are thousands of them out there, and every once in awhile you’ll find some kind of strange mutant that seems less like a cactus and more anthropomorphic. That’s kind of my aesthetic—always seeing the human connected to the non-human—the plant and the animal and the mineral and to see those connections never ceases to excite me.”
Known for his innovative mastery of light, shadow, and the human body, Pendleton’s works use intricate costumes and only a few well-planned props to add mystery and surrealism to the world of dance. Often inspired by nature, the natural world comes to life on the MOMIX stage, and visual illusions abound.
“Nature really does nurture me, and I spend as much time out of the dance studio to get information to put in the dance studio,” Pendleton says. “I work kind of like a sculptor or painter putting together the idea visually, and then move it with music and through time and space.”
In entirety, Opus Cactus has about 20 “sections” that feature five female and five male performers contorting their bodies into various forms and shapes inspired by the life within the Sonoran.
“There’s a section called ‘Gila Dance,’ like the gila monster [reptile]. It’s made up of four athletic men combining their bodies to create a large, crawling snake-like gila monster creature and it does it’s own little dance and then you’re on to something else,” he says. Another section hosts “women with large fans painted yellow to music of Native American lullabies to give you a sense of a sun dance.”
Music is another important part of MOMIX’s charm, with pieces ranging classical, ambient, and desert sounds. Opus Cactus, much like it’s floral and faunal inspirations, is meant to pull you in with honey-sweet colours and sounds, and trap you in the visual mystery Pendleton creates.
“If we could bring the audience into the desert of the Sonoran that would be one thing, but short of that, we bring our findings to your theatre,” he says. “The logic was really of surprise—hopefully not the surprise of stepping on a rattlesnake.”
Wed., Feb. 21 & 22
MOMIX Opus Cactus
Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium