Moses Pendleton’s Momix, which he founded in 1980, while still creating as one of the cofounders of the cooperative ensemble Pilobolus, represents that rarest of species in American dance: a for profit company. An online search turned up nary another and an inquiry to Dance USA’s Director of Research set her off on a fruitless search for any others beyond the dance school and dance competition models.
A female dancer (left) and male dancer (right) each lean sharply forward in extreme diagonals their feet anchored on skis, their bodies sheathed in full form-fitting long sleeved unitards complete with tight hoods tinted blue in the stage lighting against a deep black background and covering all but their faces which almost touch in Moses Pendleton’s “Millenum Skiva” created for his company Momix. Photo by Freddy Fernandez.
This may seem surprising, but perhaps it shouldn’t when one considers that Pendleton, ever the maverick, claims the fountainhead of his career as a showman as having been the Caledonian County Fair in the Northeast Kingdom of his native Vermont. Here he would exhibit his family’s dairy cows. Don’t know whether the family won any prizes and, if not, it surely could not have been for a lack of presentational skills. Pendleton’s been putting fanciful imaginary creatures (no cows that I know of) on stages across the globe for the last fifty years plus.
In a brief conversation in the aisle after the show, Pendleton proved as skeptical of dance community pieties as he always seems to have been. What becomes interesting then has to do with his singular creative focus on the locus of the human body in reimagining a universe based on the one we physically share with all other creatures and energies on earth.
The breadth of the appeal of his approach can be witnessed not only in the longevity of the Momix project on a touring and commissioning model that went out of style and functionality, if not at the demise of vaudeville, then just about the time that Pilobolus broke onto the scene, but also in the universal enchantment among the eighteen other Dancing Matters folks with whom I shared the experience. More importantly, I find it in the faces of the many children present. If this represents their introduction to dancing as a mode of expression, the kids might do as well with hip hop and/or the traditional dance cultures that Queens, the most immigrant rich borough among the five of an immigrant embracing and creatively energized city, brings to them. But in terms of stretching their imaginations, it might be hard to do better.
The show itself, so much a draw that Queens Theatre Director of Community Engagement Dominic D’Andrea remarked in a curtain speech that he couldn’t remember a larger Saturday matinee audience since the beginning of the pandemic, proceeded in bite sized pieces, perfect for kids and their parents. Most of these excerpts, drawn from the six shows that Momix currently claims as repertory, lasted between 3 and 4 minutes. They therefore represent a greatest hits collection of moments in medley and montage that almost insures its popularity and the overall length of show can prove both a blessing and a challenge to the audience described. Interestingly, “Paper Trails,” my personal favorite among these tidbits, occurring just before intermission, left a preponderance of the younger children asleep in their seats, exhausted, I presume, by the unfolding pageantry of the first half, the black light darkness and the lullaby quality of the mixtape score which included “Good Bye Brother” by Ramin, Djawadi: “Progeny” by Yvonne Moriarty, Gavin Greenway and the Lyndhurst; “Sorrow” by Klaus Badelt and Lisa Gerrard; “Wisdom Work” by Byron Metcalf.
Pendleton fronts an eclectic musical vocabulary to accompany his pieces ranging from contemporary sound artists such as these with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major for the big finale. Let’s celebrate life!
I leave it to my Dancing Matters colleagues to overcome their shyness in responding in this democratic written critical discussion forum to speak up about the many other segments that they told me they adored in our round-table-picnic-in-the-park-post-performance confab, Queens Night Market having been cancelled as our ultimate destination that evening.