By Steve Sucato
Pittsburgh Current Dance Writer
It’s harvest time and dance-maker/multimedia artist Moses Pendleton is in perhaps his favorite place on earth; roaming the sunflower fields of his rural Connecticut home picking heads to photograph and film them.
Pendleton, on the phone with the Current from those very fields, says he’s had 50-years-worth of traveling with his former company, Pilobolus, that he co-founded and danced with, and MOMIX, the dance-theater company he started 39-years ago.
“Now, I do a lot of traveling in my own backyard,” he says. And while the 70-year-old doesn’t leave home much, that hasn’t stopped the fruits of his fertile imagination from spreading far and wide in the form of MOMIX’s panoply of visually striking shows that tour the globe annually.
Last in Pittsburgh in 2011, Pendleton’s MOMIX returns to the Byham Theater on Saturday, September 21 in Viva MOMIX (a.k.a. W MOMIX Forever), a mix-and-match collection of some of the company’s best moments from their evening-length works Botanica, Alchemia, Remix, Opus Cactus and Lunar Sea.
The 2-hour, 2-act performance created for the company’s 35th Anniversary Celebration in Milan, Italy says Pendleton, has no storyline or full-evening theme other than that of MOMIX, “which is kind of the theme of surreal, vaudeville, visual and physical theater coming at you at a rapid rate. The show has a lot of variety, humor and poetry.”
While the work may not have an over-arching theme per se, Pendleton says, “When you are taking selections from full-evening productions, the main criteria is that the pieces need to fit together to create a seamless show — Viva MOMIX is a nice cross-section of our aesthetic.”
Some of what will be seen from the troupe’s 10 dancers on Saturday will be an excerpt from Lunar Sea that uses black light to reveal only the dancers arms to create the look of a flock of snow geese; a giant man-fan from Botanica that Pendleton calls an extension of late 19th and early 20th century choreographer Loie fuller’s dances. The company will also perform short works created for Viva MOMIX including “Daddy Long Legs,” a humorous piece featuring a trio of cowboys with the gimmick being each sports a leg much longer than their other, “Paper Trails,” a work all done with paper and projections that Pendleton calls an “installation fantastique,” and “Light Reigns,” which got its inspiration from a skiing trip Pendleton took in Colorado and where he saw strings of cascading Christmas tree lights that looked like it was raining light.
“There is a musical curve to the evening as well and each piece has its own beginning, middle, and end,” says Pendleton. “If you don’t like what you are seeing with one, you don’t have to wait too long before it changes to something else.”
MOMIX performs Viva MOMIX, 8 p.m., Saturday, September 21; Byham Theater, 101 6th St., Downtown, Tickets are $10-65, (412) 456-6666 or trustarts.org.
Dancing Through Time
Entering its 9th season, Exhalations Dance Theatre will present the mixed repertory program TIME: UNBOUND, September 21-22 at the University of Pittsburgh’s Charity Randall Theatre.
The program features 7 mostly company-dancer works on a theme of time. It will begin with EDT Founding Executive Director Katherine Mann’s “Moving Still” to music by French-Finnish musician Örsten and others. Says Mann of the 12-minute work for 5 dancers in 3 movements, it is about life’s inherent perpetual motion and the need to create our own paths forward.
Next, Ebony Cunningham’s “Born, Never Asked” is a reworking of her 2017 piece for the company, “Rise and Fall”. Danced to music by Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass and Robert Wilson, the 11-minute contemporary dance work is for a quartet of dancers and explores women’s roles in society.
A nod to the changing season upon us, Heidi Murr’s 6 ½-minute “When the Leaves Fall” to music by Max Richter, “Is about the moment when the air begins to crisp, the leaves begin to transform…and there is the possibility of new beginnings,” says Murr.
Guest choreographer, Texture Contemporary Ballet’s Kelsey Bartman’s new work created for Exhalations entitled “Humble Chessboard Queen,” touches on the role reversal the aging process brings with it. When we are young our parents care for us and when they get older we are called upon to care for them. The 10 ½-minute work for 5 dancers in performed to music by English alternative rock band Dry the River.
Next, choreographer Alyssa Bradley’s “Culaccino,” an 11-minute piece for 7 dancers to the music of English singer/songwriter Sohn (a.k.a. Christopher Michael Taylor) then ponders how relationships can change over time and the lessons that can be learned from them.
Rounding out the program will be Stephanie Frey Anderson’s new 9-minute trio “Press Pause” about the fleeting aspect of time, and EDT Artistic Director Lea Kasic Fosbenner’s “Trench” to music by Twenty One Pilots. Costumed in all white, 10 dancers relay the effect time has on relationships either in a positive or negative way in the 13-minute piece.
Exhalations Dance Theatre presents TIME: UNBOUND, 8 p.m., Saturday, September 21 & 5 p.m., Sunday, September 22; University of Pittsburgh’s Charity Randall Theatre, 4301 Forbes Ave, Oakland. Tickets are $10-18. exhalations.org/time.