How MOMIX’s Dance Reveals Our Inner Aardvark (With Video)

On Friday September 10, 2010, the Winspear Opera House will host internationally acclaimed dance company, MOMIX. The brainchild of founder and artistic director Moses Pendleton, MOMIX is one of those modern dance/theater companies that emphasize a non-verbal, non-linear, visceral, surreal kind of physicality. For two nights the company will present “Botanica,” Pendleton’s latest evening-long production. Though a physical piece, “Botanica” also gives dancers a certain amount of immunity from their own individual human form. It’s a work that needs highly trained bodies to manipulate the enormous props and costumes that create images of marigolds, sunflowers, rocks and things of nature. “Botanica” seeks to convey a message of the body connected to other forms of life, particularly those who can be found in the garden.

In a recent interview, Pendleton, an avid gardener himself, spoke about these connections between the physical and the botanical.

“If you scratch the surface of the human ever so slightly, you’ll see we are more aardvark then anything,” Pendleton said. “We have a vestigial tale to be told. I think dance in particular, because it uses the body and goes exploring in all physical areas, that it can stimulate the past memory. Pre-human, if you will. It’s in our code. It’s in us.”

The avant-garde has never been popular, and, perhaps, this is as it should be. Today, in what’s left of the realm of creative absurdity in the arts, modern dance continues to flourish despite the pushback from cultural populism. So, it is not surprising with this piece, Mr. Pendleton has managed to put his “green” finger on the pulse of today’s audiences.

“Botanica” speaks to the masses, and it conquers the individual need for self-affirmation through a visually stunning, magically, whimsical escape from reality. It has ballet and modern dance elements but it is not any one particular thing.

“The vocabulary I’ve created for MOMIX is really based on a kind of visual theater premise,” Pendleton said. “I see myself as more of a sculpture, painter, someone that creates visual pictures and then scores them to music with dance, later. It’s not pure dance.”

This show is more of a three-dimensional, multi-media, visual experience.

“I don’t go for avant-garde. I am more of an avant-gardener,” he said. “And if it’s popular, that helps us as well. I think it’s very elitist to believe only a handful of people would understand it, or for that matter, stay awake watching it. We are a for profit company. We earn everything we get. If no one ever saw it, did it really happen?”

Pendleton affirms his company adheres to theatrical responsibility, in terms of having things well rehearsed and presented in a way that the aesthetic reactions of any given audience are an integral part of the success of the show.

Watching “Botanica” is like walking through someone’s dreamscape. It’s whimsical, fast action, sexy, it’s sensual and it’s very life affirming.

“We really don’t like to say how the world is,” Pendleton said. “We get enough of that on the front page of the newspapers everyday. But more how it might be in a fantasy where fantasy is an integral part of the reality.”

Photo: From “Botanica” (Credit: Don Perdue courtesy of TITAS)