Nature inspires dance company

January 11, 2007|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

GETTYSBURG, Pa. - In a scene from "Opus Cactus," four dancers, in sync, form an oversized, firetruck-red Gila monster that changes its shape, stretching lengthwise across the stage like a prowling lizard.

In another moment, the Gila transforms, with its legs and arms - the appendages of three of the four dancers - drawn in and turned up like a scarlet lotus or crab fresh from the bay.

Momix dance company will perform "Opus Cactus" on Sunday at Gettysburg's Majestic Theater. "Opus Cactus" is a two-act piece inspired by the saguaro cactus of the American Southwest.

In lieu of a storyline, the dancers in this two-hour piece will convey visual themes of desert life, leaving it to the audience to interpret the images "in the same way one would view a statue, painting or photograph," Momix artistic director Moses Pendleton said in a telephone interview.


The company has coined the term "dancer-illusionists" to describe its artistic style.

Momix uses dance, props and a bit of trick-the-eye theatrics to interpret things found in nature, such as the Gila monster, a poisonous lizard found in the Southwest.

"I find my inspiration in the natural world," Pendleton said. "I know it can't be directly translated, but you can be inspired by it."

The art of creating images

For material, Pendleton walks through the woods for hours, capturing what he hears on tape. Sometimes, Pendleton said, he'll store his thoughts as memos on his cell phone.

"You never know when you're going to be attacked by an idea," he said. "It's a creative war. I'm always trying to mine the mind. You have to have tools ready to capture the dailies."

Eventually, Pendleton reviews the memos and taped recordings. Those sounds and notes, he said, conjure up the images on which he will base his choreography.

Right now, Pendleton is working on his next piece, which he is calling "Botanica," a nod to the beauty of roses and other plant life.

To prepare, he has been videotaping roses, examining the folds of their petals - likely inspiration for a prop or costume for the piece.

"Botanica," he said, will likely debut this time next year.

"Opus Cactus" began as a 25-minute piece he was commissioned to choreograph for an Arizona ballet company in 1996. But over time, the piece evolved into a 19-act, two-hour performance for Momix, Pendleton said.

"You grow dance pieces," Pendleton said. "It never gets finished."

If you go...

WHAT: "Opus Cactus" by Momix, a company of dancer-illusionists

WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14

WHERE: Majestic Theater, 25 Carlisle St., Gettysburg, Pa.

COST: $34 to $39

MORE: For ticket information, contact the Majestic Theater at 717-337-8200. To see snapshots of Momix's current pieces, go to the dance troupe's Web site,

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