Momix dancers in "Sundance," one of 17 sections in "Opus Cactus"
On a cold winter night at The Egg, an ensemble of 10 dancer/acrobats/illusionist offered a welcomed respite with an ode to desert. “Opus Cactus” is yet another creation from the animated imagination of Moses Pendleton. As seen on Friday night, it warmed with its reds and yellows, delighted with is its imagery and met all expectations -- once again, proving Momix makes magic.
Like many of Momix’s evening-length formulations, the 2001 “Opus Cactus” takes the audience on a journey to explore every aspect of the subject at hand. As “Opus Cactus” is a southwest safari, the audience experiences its flora and fauna with masterful imagery that only Pendleton’s band of athletic artists could perform.
Take for example, the pole dances. In the first, three men, each handling their own long poles, launch off their rods to pose upside down in midair, again and again and again. In the second pole dance, two women straddle poles held aloft. Upright, they hold onto the pole by their inner thighs, and are then spun like pinwheels. It’s all muscle, but it is done with such fluidity and speed, that it appears easy. And it was also done with an eye for detail – line and the aesthetics. Ultimately, audiences are not just marveled by the feat, they are marveled by the beauty.
That is the thing. “Opus Cactus” is beautiful even in its most simple gestures. Consider the opening – “Desert Storm.” On a darkened stage, invisible dancers handle tumbling neon balls that appear like electric tumbleweeds. As they blow off and away, the curtain rises on a single dancer who represents a cactus wren. Seen only in silhouette against a glowing orange backdrop, she undulates her body like a bird ruffling its feathers. She bobs her head like a pecking lark and then takes flight, her arms and legs elevated to look like she is soaring.
These gorgeous moments tumble onto the stage, one after another. There is the “Ostrich of the Imagination” in which the women and men unite as one creature – she, the head and chest of the large, graceful bird, and he, the rump and the legs. Then there is the “Sidewinder” dance in which the women are whirling dervishes adorned with the poisonous snake followed by the gila monster, the venomous lizard, a conglomerate of four men writhing menacingly along the length of the floor.
There are many humorous moments too, such as when the dancer who becomes a lizard using his bottom as its head and the upside down heads, without bodies, singing along with Mickey Hart’s “Pigs in Space.”
Much of Momix’s wizardry is found in Pendleton’s astute selection of music from Adam Plack, Brian Eno and Transglobal Underground. It’s a combination of Native American, African to Bollywood sounds that are all hypnotic, elevating the sense and spurring the audience to buy into the amazing visuals.
It ends with “First Contact,” a glorious finale with women hanging from swings gliding over the audience as a giant puppet with a skeleton head bobs along. It was an exquisite end to a dazzling performance.