They are the dance world's version of Cirque du Soleil, blending physical theater, illusion and dance into shows with high production values and universal audience appeal. MOMIX returns to Pittsburgh on Sept. 16 and 17 to open the Pittsburgh Dance Council season with its four-seasons-themed spectacle BOTANICA (2009).
The two-hour production, jam-packed with visual illusions, projections, puppetry and inventive costumes and props, will create a fantastical vision of our natural world as imagined by MOMIX artistic director/choreographer Moses Pendleton and his troupe of ten dancers.
"I have always been interested in the plant, animal and mineral and how we relate to them since I was a farm boy in Northern Vermont," says Pendleton by phone from his farm in Northwestern Connecticut, which doubles as MOMIX headquarters. "BOTANICA is an exploration of my curiosity about the backyard and the garden translated into dance-theater form."
To create the work's many eye-catching visual representations of flora and fauna, Pendleton and the company first came up with ideas for images relating to the work's theme. Then they added music, props, costumes and choreography.
Not every idea makes it to the stage, says Pendleton. Some could not be executed technically. For instance, neither a giant stork that gave birth to human "eggs" nor several large trees which housed dancers that made up their trunks and limbs would fit in most theater wings.
One of the more interesting images that did make it into BOTANICA is a large triceratops skeleton that one of the dancers rides, and then is eaten by. "It's symbolic of our past and the dog-eat-dog nature of the world," says Pendleton.
Also included is a section on Pendleton's other passion, sunflowers. When he is not creating dance works, Pendleton likes to film and photograph the more than 10,000 sunflowers on his farm.
BOTANICA is set to an eclectic soundtrack ranging from birdsong and nature sounds to Vivaldi.
"If you knew more about bird sounds, you would hear barn owls crying out that centaurs are about to enter the stage," says Pendleton, waxing poetic.
Even if they can't understand bird sounds, Pittsburgh audiences should find it easy to understand what makes MOMIX such a unique and popular dance-theater troupe.
MOMIX performs BOTANICA 8 p.m. Fri., Sept. 16, and 8 p.m. Sat., Sept. 17. Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $19-50. 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org