In an interview that appeared in our paperless pages several years back, famed choreographer Moses Pendleton shared his thought that “if people appreciate what I do, if they go out from one of our performances with a little less gravity in their skip, then I’ve been successful.”
Since 1971, when he co-founded the revolutionary Pilobolus dance company, Pendleton has done his part to fight the good fight against gravity — both the stodgy old natural law, and the sort of attitude that too often keeps a “fine arts” institution from having a joyful sense of humor about itself. When he left Pilobolus to forge the meeting of movement and stagecraft magic known as MOMIX, the self-described “avant gardener” renewed his mission of “exploring new and surprising ways to move and bend.” And when the troupe returns to the Red Bank stage of the Count Basie Theatre this Sunday, they’ll be newly exploring one of the works that made them one of the most celebrated forces in modern dance.
The 7 p.m. event represents the first local performance for the touring company since 2009, when the dancers introduced themselves to the Greater Green audience with a program that drew from a selection of its “greatest hits.”
Among those highlights was the “Gila Dance” segment from Opus Cactus — an homage to the natural wonders of the Sonoran Desert, and an innovative early worked that served to put Momix on the map. Originally commissioned in 2001 as a 20-minute piece for Ballet Arizona, the audience-pleasing Opus was “brought back into the MOMIX retort” 10 years later, and re-imagined as a full-length show that “brings the landscape of the American Southwest to life with his signature illusionistic style creating dynamic images of cactuses, slithering lizards and fire dancers.”
Discussing the “Gila Dance” with redbankgreen, Pendleton described it as a piece in which “four men combine to create the image of a Gila Monster, and a snake.”
“It takes the ability to manipulate the body, manipulate weight to create shape,” he said. “It’s coordinated every bit as much as an old Busby Berkeley movie number… you actually see a snake dance.”
The references to all aspects of American culture and experience are part of the charm of MOMIX and its visionary founder, whose résumé includes work on music videos for Prince, appearances on Sesame Street, and a memorable closing ceremony for the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics.
While he says he doesn’t dance “for the public” anymore, the 67-year-old Pendleton continues to manage his multiple touring companies, brainstorm new works for the stage, and “perform for the fish” as he swims his local lake. Take it here for tickets ($25 – $45) to Sunday evening’s performance at the Basie.
The MOMIX event is just one highlight in a busy week’s worth of events at Red Bank’s internationally famous stage — an eclectic menu that also includes an all-star Evening of Doo Wop (Saturday, March 4); an acoustic performance by 80s hitmaker Pat Benatar with Neil Giraldo (Tuesday, March 7); the return of popular medium James Van Praagh (Wednesday, March 8); the operatic arias and pop anthems of The TEN Tenors (Thursday, March 9); Tony-winning Broadway legend Betty Buckley (Friday, March 10), and Basie-fave comedian Bobby Collins (Saturday, March 11). Take it here for full details and tickets to these and a slew of recently added attractions.