The Toronto-based dance company Momix made its second-ever appearance in Austin to unveil its recent production, Alice, based on the Lewis Carroll novel Alice in Wonderland, one of everyone’s favorite stories.
I had seen Momix in NYC well over thirty-five years ago when they debuted in the early 1980s and was mesmerized, stunned, and bowled over… Define WOW in as many words and synonyms as possible; that was my first impression of this extraordinary dance ensemble. I had the same thought and visceral reaction to Alice.
The WSJ wrote, “MOMIX’s Alice fills the stage with a marvelously dizzying flow of physical activities and illusions amid expansive, artful projections.” From the dazzling use of screenprints on the proscenium curtains to the exquisite lighting – from kaleidoscopic shards of color to reflective rays of bright white light streamed onto images of dancers holding up mirrors to create an endless loop of bodies, to the vibrant use of color, Alice was Moses Pendelton’s opus.
“Go Ask Alice,” sang Grace Slick in White Rabbit; she also said, “Feed your head.” The closing song was appropriate and begged the audience for more. Pendleton, a former formidable LSD user, likes to play with the audience, seducing them as if they were on the most incredible psychedelic trip.
“You can see why I think Alice is a natural fit for MOMIX. We want to take this show into places we haven’t been before in terms of the fusion of dance, lighting, music, costumes, and projected imagery. Our puns are visual, not verbal. It’s not modern dance; it’s MOMIX—under the spell of Lewis Carroll, who was under the spell of Alice—who was still learning to spell.”
MOMIX productions are not traditional, nor can it truthfully be said they are just a dance company because they aren’t. Performed as stand-alone skits, each one strung together to tell a partial Alice in Wonderland story, yet as stand-alone events, you ventured into the mysteriously eccentric worlds created by the Artistic Director.
It’s not hard to understand that the way Momix blends mediums comes from Pendleton’s multi-media background. He’s created ballet works for far-flung groups such as the Romanian National Gymnastics Team and the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. He’s an accomplished photographer in his own right, which explains his deft use of lighting. Pendleton was also a Guggenheim Fellow in 1977 and performed as a dancer in PBS’s Dance in America and Great Performances series.
Russian-like Tchaikovsky-sounding music pounded away during one skit as dancers wearing bowler hats skipped and twirled around the stage. In another spookier sequence, four dancers, perhaps pre-teens (it was hard to tell by their sheer nude stocking outfits and their height), danced in pairs of two as twins. This twin set, one of either a newborn male baby or a very frail older man, and the other set of young girls were depicted as such by masks.
In another skit, dancers wore red sneakers while holding large, bright blue bouncy balls. The infinity mirrors in the back of the dancers created an illusion of hundreds of bouncing balls and live figures. As they moved, the images changed into hieroglyphics.
Texas Performing Arts put on this one-night-only show 🙁for the lucky ones who got tickets. Seeing Austin develop its roster of world-class acts by inviting them to our stages will raise the bar in the arts. That way, audiences throughout our growing city can enjoy what the rest of the big city locals already know: global art troupes enrich our experiences beyond words and through visual encounters that leave lasting impressions.
Photo credit: Janet Bernson