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Momix's Opus Cactus - a review by Roberta Zlokower
- Onstage with the Dancers

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Sonoran: But not Asleep; Desert Storm; Cactus Wren/Morning Star; Pole Dance; Desert Blooms; Ostrich of the Imagination; Prickly Pair; Black Mesa; Sidewinder; Gila Dance; Tracking the Earth; Caravan; Dream Catcher; Menitation; Sundance; Big Pole Dance; Totem; Fire Walker; First Contact.

Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 25, 2002
Originally Published on

Joyce Theater, NYC. Performances of this Program through October 13.

Joyce Theater: or 212-242-0800


Kudos to Moses Pendleton, Artistic Director of MOMIX, who has choreographed and directed dance performances for the past thirty years. In 1971, Mr. Pendleton was one of the founding members of Pilobolus Dance Theater, and in the early 1980's he founded MOMIX. Mr. Pendleton has also worked extensively in opera, TV, ballet, and special events. He is multitalented, as a gardener of sunflowers, as a photographer, as a creator of music videos for renowned musicians and singers, and as a filmmaker. MOMIX is based in Washington Connecticut.

Close your eyes, turn out the lights, and enter a world like Fantasia. But, instead of Leopold Stokowski, standing in dark profile against a brightly lit background of Philadelphia Orchestra musicians and Disney cartoons, such as dancing brooms, unicorns, hippopotami, crocodiles, nymphs, and monsters, we are drawn into an American Southwestern feast for the eyes and ears, of snakelike creatures, humans as centipedes, rolling, white geo-spheres in the dark, human Saguaro cacti, dancers on trapezes, and a dancer with fire on his feet.

MOMIX is an amazing blend of dance, imagination, double entendres (Prickly Pair), and unique choreography, in a wild, dynamic celebration of the culture of the American Southwest, new age music mixed with J. S. Bach, and evocative sounds and rhythms of Native American Indians. The backdrops present bright Arizona colors or blue skies with wispy clouds. The effect of the silhouettes, with dancers perched upon dancers, with dancers with enormous yellow fans, both as props and costumes, with dancers intertwining as extended and dividing desert creatures, and with dancers attacking each other in predatory fashion, is the effect of the desert night, as I have experienced on numerous travels to the natural environment of Arizona.

The Gila Monster, composed of several dancers, in red and black, with a pointy crown, divides and slithers, with a dancing tongue. The use of ultraviolet light on this monster is one small example of the superb lighting effects of Joshua Starbuck, Moses Pendleton, and John Finen III. First Contact, the last of the nineteen dances in this program, utilizes trapezes and a giant skeletal puppet, brilliantly configured by Michael Curry, who designed the award-winning puppets for The Lion King.

The dancers spinning across the stage on skateboards or "stomach wheelers", first the male dancers, then female, then both together, into and around each other, with turbo speed, play out the roles of attraction and connection. The dancer with feet on fire, in glowing darkness, gives a breathtaking performance, as the audience watches smoke rise in the darkly lit stage, and circles of kinetic fire create the effect of fireworks in the nighttime sky. In Big Pole Dance, three men climb over and through vaulting poles, with highly athletic and primitive motion, using the full expanse of the Joyce stage, as most of these nineteen performances do so effectively.

As Opus Cactus is an homage to the Saguaro cactus, at one point, the dancers create the silhouette of the cactus with dancers in yellow crowns, to illustrate the yellow cactus flower, sprouting from the spiked cactus growths and limbs. The female cactus flowers squat on poles, above other dancers, in a cactus fantasy. In another dance, a silver gym-like configuration, perhaps composed of vinyl or light metal, tumbles across the stage, over and against the prostate dancers, in perfect balance and configuration, so that it, too, is one more, oversized dancing object, that appears to have a personality of its own. This apparatus turns and falls in total silence.

In addition to dancing equipment, fire, and light, we are also treated to upside-down men, with heads brightly lit, singing an upbeat chorus, as their black-clothed bodies rise to the upper stage, never wavering, in unison of stance and song. In fact, the entire selection of music is pulsating and hypnotic, as the audience is immersed in sound, before the performance and during intermission. The evening's musical compositions are drawn from J. S. Bach, Winds of Warning, Spirit Dance, The Drop, Mesh, Ritual, Rejoice/Rejoice, Thunder Down Under, Buddah Bar, Passion in the Desert, Nomad, At the Edge, Orenda, Tribe, The Serpent's Egg, and Pray.

I highly recommend calling the Joyce for tickets to one of the remaining performances of Opus Cactus and also for a performance of the second program, to be reviewed next week, MOMIX in Orbit.

Photos of Momix's Opus Cactus courtesy of Momix


For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at