Momix at the Joyce Theater

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An entertaining combination of dance, theater and circus, Momix is making its New York appearance

By Joel Benjamin

 

Momix, an offshoot of Pilobolus directed by one of its founders, Moses Pendleton, is here for its annual season at the Joyce Theater.  Unfortunately, the troupe didn’t bring any new works, but Remix, a suite of thirteen short dances made for a charming, if not a particularly substantial evening, displaying every virtue—and some shortcomings—of this hard-working troupe of eleven dancers. The basic approach Mr. Pendleton takes to choreography is simple:  find a shtick, a gimmick and work it hard until it is used up.  The success of each of the short dances depended on how interesting the gimmick was and to be sure he succeeds far more than he fails producing works that are a hybrid of ballet, modern dance, gymnastics and acrobatics with astounding use of lighting, scenery and videos.

On the more successful list would be “Dream Catcher,” “Marigolds,” “Table Talk,” “Tuu” and most particularly the finale, “If You Need Some Body” which was by far the most satisfying piece on the program—and it was danced to Bach, after an evening of New Age/pseudo-Indian/electronic doodling scores.  (One of Mr. Pendleton’s shortcomings is his choices of music which become one giant, moody blurr and provide little rhythmic support to the choreography).

The least successful dances used devices that became tiresome very quickly.  “Sputnick” placed a young lady in a bowl dead center as she was being worshipped by other young ladies when four men stick long poles into the edge of the bowl and variously rotate and lift her, at times turning into an airborne merry-go-round.  The same poles were used in “Pole Dance,” performed by Todd Burnsed, Jon Eden and the hard-working Steven Ezra who each possessed a very long pole with which they pole-vaulted about, often pairing them to provide the means for another dancer to hang off.  Again, even though quite short, it was a cool exercise in gimmickry.  “Frozen Awakening” placed a languorous Sarah Nachbauer on a mirrored ramp.  She stretched, folded herself into the kind of shapes only a fit dancer can make and stared at her own image, out-narcissusing Narcissus.

The winning works included “Dream Catcher” in which Mr. Ezra and Natalie Lomonte began by hanging onto opposite ends of a large rounded sculpture made of shiny pipes.  This structure was designed to roll about with the dancers in it.  They never quite touched each other but, at the end, rolled the clever compilation of pipes from one side of the stage to the other as if delivering some vague communication between them.  In “Marigolds” five women pulled their many-layered tutus over their heads, effectively becoming a bunch of flowers.  This bouquet was wittily arrayed about the stage with just enough saucy wriggling to make it clear that any bee could have its way with them.  “Table Talk” was just Mr. Ezra and a very strong kitchen table which he used in every way possible, hanging on it, stretching off it, slithering about its top and even at one point lifting it.  The simplicity and lack of gadgetry made this a stand out.  “Tuu” was another simple idea:  a young lady (Rebecca Rasmussen) is literally wrapped around a young man (the ubiquitous Mr. Ezra).  As the two worked out lifts and other moves, a picture of dependency emerged.  This was the only work on the program that was about two humans relating to each other rather than using each other as props.

“If You Need Some Body” was a full company romp that was mind-bogglingly paced and danced.  Each dancer was attached to a life-sized puppet whose legs were supplied by the performer.  At times men wore women dolls and vice versa.  The stage overflowed with kinetic, cartoony humor helped, as mentioned above, by the freshness of a Bach Brandenburg Concerto.  This was great fun, combining the brilliance of Mr. Pendleton’s vision and taking advantage of the dancers’ youth and exuberance.

Momix continues at the Joyce through January 5th.  This troupe sells out quickly because it not only appeals to sophisticated dance aficionados but to kids who were very much in evidence at the show I attended.

 

Momix – through January 5th

The Joyce Theater

175 Eighth Ave. (at 19th St.)

New York, NY

Tickets:  JoyceCharge – 212-242-0800 or www.joyce.org

 

 

 

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