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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

MOMIX presents Botanica

“Lunes laugh in darkness for swans to dream of genesis and a new green.”

That’s how Moses Pendleton, artistic director for the dance company MOMIX, describes his work in Botanica, which will be performed at the Mondavi Center on Oct. 26 and 27. Pendleton believes that Botanica is not your average dance show, as its sensuality, soundtrack and sensorial stimulation will appeal to people who don’t usually view dance performances. From his office in Connecticut, Pendleton spoke with MUSE via phone interview.

MUSE: Can you briefly describe Botanica?

Pendleton: Botanica is a show that depicts the four seasons in a MOMIX style, using a mixed media presentation. It’s taking MOMIX — props, lights, special effects and different kinds of music — and creating another world, inspired by the botanical experience and nature. It’s very spectacular and involves a lot of costumes, mystery and magic. The soundtrack includes Peter Gabriel, trance music and some classical.

It plays on the logic of dreams, in the sense that it doesn’t have to be logical, but surreal. It’s non verbal … it’s a bit difficult to explain in words but you should see it to get an idea. I hope that it will be a good evening for all and that audiences walk out of the performance with a little less gravity in their step.

MUSE: How old is Botanica? What was the inspiration for Botanica?

Pendleton: It will be five years old in January. It’s a distillation of a lot of interests I’ve had in my lifetime. I was born and raised on a farm so I’ve had a lot of interest in the natural world. I feel like the show makes contact with life forms and energies beyond human. Part of the show’s draw is transforming human objects into other forms of nature, which is fun to watch. It’s a series of optical confusions that take the rust off your dendrites, stimulate your head and get you to imagine what you’re looking at.

MUSE: How did you come up with some of the imagery?

Pendleton: There are special props like old sewer pipes and fans and we transform them into other things like a sculptor. We create images first and then we realize them with props. For example, there are five girls that we lay petticoats on, until they look like marigolds. Then we figure out how that dancer can move.

MUSE: What is a moment in Botanica that really stood out for you?

Pendleton: I feel like they all have impact. There’s another piece called Centaur, like the half man half horse. We create the top half with one dancer perpendicular to the floor, and then there’s an ass end to the centaur on the floor. The two bodies combine to move around and they do a number to a midsummer night’s bacchanal. It’s a trick of MOMIX to not disguise the bodies with horse hair but we see the illusion at the same time.

MUSE: What inspired you to pursue dance and choreography?

Pendleton: I got into it by accident. I was training to be a downhill racer. I went to Dartmouth to pursue skiing but on my second day I broke my leg. To recuperate, I took a dance class and it changed everything. Six weeks later, I was dancing in the opening act for Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. It was very shocking since I was an English major. We were encouraged by positive reception to pursue this path. We got such buzz that it really helped us pursue this. We’ve been fortunate to have a following all this time, since it has allowed us to make a living from Momix for 33 years now.

Tickets can be purchased at the Mondavi Center Ticket Office or online at mondaviarts.org.

JOHN KESLER can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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