Sand Crabs and Cacti

Sand Crabs and Cacti
October 7, 2016 W. Celeste Davis Stragand
MOMIX. Photo courtesy of Newman Center Presents
MOMIX. Photo courtesy of Newman Center Presents

MOMIX. Photo courtesy of Newman Center Presents.

Founded in 1980 under the artistic direction of Moses Pendleton, MOMIX hit the stage last night for its opening night of Opus Cactus at the University of Denver Newman Center. The quirky, physically intense performance starts with music being piped in prior to the lifting of the curtain.  

When the curtain does lift and the lights have darkened, the stage remains black minus the presence of neon green glow-in-the-dark orbs who begin to dance. The rave party quality of the music coupled with the bouncing/shifting objects made me question if I missed something when I arrived.  I say this because the audience was 90% blue-hairs with walkers and not millennial club kids, who are clearly missing out and maybe grandma does know best…but I digress.

The next few pieces continue this trip-like imagery. The technical wizardry of the lighting technician should be applauded as dancers fade from what look like shadows to full-bodied on-stage presences, with costumes changing colors before our eyes.  The surreal animalistic figures developed by Pendleton entrance you into thinking you have entered a mystical alien desert.

Often times in modern dance, choreographers use multiple planes to elevate and sink dancers on the stage. At one point, the dancers are all on their knees, slinking and popping and slithering as if their limbs defy the natural order.  There is even a point when the shadow outline of their bodies looks like that of a sand crab. The body, tucked and perched, leaps and reaches expressions that are truly illusionistic.  Once again, customary limb expression is thwarted.

The use of props throughout the night varies from what resemble bow sticks to poles for pole dancing to swimming pool noodles to fans to a gigantic metal sculpture to wheel creepers.  The dancers vary in recognition from pseudo-androgynous waifs to hair flipping diva prowess.  The interplay of body upon body plays tricks with the eyes. It creates continues simultaneous movement that looks as if a creature is walking when really it is one person lying on rollers sliding along the floor holding up the other person standing on his knees…confused? It blew the mind.

Another example of human on human morphing into animal or reptile occurred during Gila Dance where four dancers writhe along the floor in the shape of a Gila Monster.  The reactive quality of one dancer lifting and popping while still being “connected” to his counterpart made for intense visual imagery.  Enjoy this video to catch a glimpse.  

The evening proved completely entertaining and awe inspiring. The physical strength and precision of the company was noteworthy. They consistently maintained synchronicity and composure.  Even when the penultimate piece has a dancer with his feet on fire (yes, live fire), the power, passion and precision remained. Take a chance and go see MOMIX the next time they perform. They tour throughout the world, so pick a location.


W. Celeste Davis Stragand: Published author, showcased artist and Denver transplant, W. Celeste Davis Stragand is not new to the art world. Her passion for delving into the root of existence and movement will challenge and praise both choreographers and the audience.  A graduate of Texas A&M University, Celeste holds two bachelor of arts degrees, one in Chemistry and the other in English. She is also a graduate of Naropa University holding a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing and Poetics from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. A former national slam team poet, Celeste is a graduate of the Downtown Denver Partnership Leadership Program and sits on the American Institute of Architects Colorado board.  Her passion and enthusiasm for the kinetic arts will frolic and frenzy through the upcoming season of performances with many hopes for an encore!

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