MOMIX: A dance of illusion

By on January 27, 2015
MOMIX dancers weave athletic tapestries. PHOTO:  MOMIX

MOMIX dancers weave athletic tapestries. PHOTO: MOMIX

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Moses Pendleton wasn’t a dancer. He was an aspiring downhill skier raised on a farm in Vermont, who each year traveled to Mount Hood to train with the Austrian ski team.

When he broke his leg, he took a dance class to recuperate, which led him to join Pilobolus and to eventually create Momix, a dance company performing in Jackson on Sunday. As artistic director of the company, Pendleton is still influenced by his ski-racing days. Momix dances are athletic, using movement associated with sport in a poetic way.

“I know the wild ones that go fast and down mountains that have outrageous courage and belief in their own ability to make it,” Pendleton said. “That’s part of Momix.”

Those who attend a Momix performance should expect a tapestry of dance, illusions and impressive athletic feats. “Momix is a mixture of various elements of lighting, cool music and great bodies doing strange and wonderful things,” Pendleton said.

Costumes and props help create visual theatre. The dances, which feature elements of acrobatics or movement you might see in a Cirque du Soleil show, unfold scenes of arresting imagery that do not necessarily tell a story. It is not just dance, but more of dance theatre performed by dancers as illusionists. Momix creates a fantastical, dreamlike experience on stage that intrigues even those who normally don’t like dance.

“It’s a nice escape from whatever reality you might be coming from,” Pendleton said.

Audiences went crazy for Momix when the company last visited in 2008, said Dancers’ Workshop Artistic Director Babs Case.

“There’s nothing about watching a performance that’s hard,” Case said. “It’s very accessible and beautiful and physical and interesting and engaging.”

While some pieces tell a story or provide a metaphor, many are simply visually extraordinary, with a recurrent theme of lightheartedness and play, Case said.

Pendleton finds inspiration for dance in nature. He first began dancing in the 1960s. “There was a lot of interest in doing things creatively. Everyone was heading into the woods to drum on spruce logs or do your dance and play flutes and be free and be in the moment, and love was in the air,” he said.

Outdoor fantasy still influences Pendleton, who each day takes a long walk in the country. Lately he has been photographing ice crystals as part of a search for solitude and inspiration.

“The elements are really my research now,” he said. “I’m researching fire and air and tree roots and rocks.”

Pendleton also is inspired by romantic poets such as Keats, Shelley and Lord Byron, who found beauty and energy in small things like a nightingale or a summer’s breeze. He aims to capture that energy or life force in his choreography.

Momix is in its 35th season and as it goes forward, Pendleton is still discovering new ideas. “I’m still evolving and learning how to dream better,” he said.

The company will perform for Teton County students while in town, and teach a master class for Dancers’ Workshop’s Junior Repertory Company as well as a class for the public, which will explore movement and provide insight into how the company creates work, Case said. There is only one public performance and Case expects tickets for the new-to-Jackson production to sell fast.

“If you’ve seen them before, you’ll definitely want to come. And if you haven’t seen them, you have to come,” Case said. “They should be seen.” — Kelsey Dayton

Momix, 6 p.m. on Sunday at Center for Arts, $45 orchestra, $35 balcony, $20 students. Momix open-level master class, 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dancers’ Workshop, $25.

About Kelsey Dayton

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