Momix offers adventure in imaginative ‘Passion’

Momix's "Passion" links the natural world with the cosmic. The dance troupe will perform the piece o
Momix will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at Proctors.
Momix will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at Proctors.

Want an escape?

Perhaps you should drift along the byways of Momix’s “Passion.” The show is a hallucinogenic adventure, in which its mastermind, Moses Pendleton, links the natural world with the cosmic.

It’s all done with props, shadows and slides, along with a little sleight of hand carried along by mesmerizing grace of the incredible dancers/athletes of Momix.

The 80 minutes of uninterrupted imagery was, in part, inspired by its music — Peter Gabriel’s score for “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Pendleton, the founder and artistic director, said he began work on “Passion” with a compilation of tunes. But the choreographer knew instantly that he should call on Gabriel’s haunting music for his new work.

“It is wonderful. It incorporates Egyptian, Arabic, African rhythms. It’s a global music, very percussive, quite dynamic,” said Pendleton, whose piece will be performed on Saturday at Proctors. He clarifies, however, that “ ‘Passion’ is not based on the novel or movie. It doesn’t tell a story. It celebrates the natural connection between plants, animals and minerals with a series of moving images.”

Multiple allusions

Still, allusions to Christianity are replete. The dance, cloaked in mystery by a scrim, opens with a projected image of a somber man’s face, implying the shroud of Turin. The vision fades and what is revealed are the dancers, posed like the many-armed goddess Lakshmi. That gives way to another 20 vignettes. One suggests a crucifixion, where a dancer looks to be suffering an agonizing death, and one, in which a performer is seemingly engulfed in flames, suggests a battle with the devil.

Of course, as in other Momix shows, there is a dash of humor, delicious sexuality and magic with the line between reality and fantasy blurred. The key to enjoying Momix is sitting back and let the chimera wash over the imagination.

“We are a dance company. Fantasy is an integral part of reality,” said Pendleton.

Pendleton created “Passion” in 1991. It has toured the area before, most recently in 2002 at Jacob’s Pillow. Like other works by the former Pilobolus alum, among them “Baseball,” “Orbit” and “Opus Cactus,” “Passion” is timeless. It is an ode to evolution, life and death. “It still resonates,” said Pendleton. “I still enjoy it.”

So, too, did New York Times critic Jack Anderson. At the show’s premiere in New York City, Anderson wrote that “ ‘Passion’ is a hymn to creation.“ He also called the dance fun, but not frivolous.

Pendleton says of all his creations, “Passion” is also one of the most difficult to perform. The body sculpture, as well as the balletic passages, test the dancers’ physical abilities.

“They are on stage all the time. It’s pretty continuous. They have to rally to pull it off. They certainly have to be in shape.”

That is an understatement as Pendleton, as well as Proctors audiences, expects perfection from the well-muscled Momix members. They also expect them to handle props, a Pendleton predilection, that helps in concocting the illusions. For example, flexible tubing is arched to look like angel wings. Ropes, swung upon, give the impression of flight.

Pendleton said the props are essential to expanding his dancers’ range of motion and pushing them beyond mortal boundaries.

Altogether, “Passion” is thought-provoking. Pendleton adds that it makes for a pleasant excursion.

“It’s a nice escape, like a dream, not a nightmare. It’s not about angst. We’re not tearing each other’s heads off,” he said. “ ‘Passion’ is a transformation from the terrestrial to the celestial. It’s life-affirming.”

Momix in ‘Passion’

WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday

HOW MUCH: $20 to $35; $10 off for 17 and younger

MORE INFO: 346-6204 or www.proctors.org

Categories: Life and Arts

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