Jason Williams in MOMIX’s ‘Table Talk.’ (Photo: Equilibre Monaco)
You’re invited to a magical marvel. Like Brigadoon, the enchanted Scottish town that emerges for a single day every hundred years, this transient wonderland — otherwise known as MOMIX —sweeps into New York City’s Joyce Theater through August 12. For more than 38 years, the world-renowned troupe has traveled the globe with nearly inexplicable grace and beauty. They’ve been here before. They will likely be here again. Still, if you’re able, you will not regret the opportunity to experience this jaw-dropping troupe this time around.
“Pleiades,” performed by Simona di Tucci, Heather Magee, and Jennifer Chicheportiche gently draws us into the program with illuminated neon props that transform into windmills, propellers, and geometrical shapes.
Founder and artistic director Moses Pendleton is keen on props and employs them in several other works throughout the evening. In “Pole Dance,” we visit the American Southwest where three male fire dancers jump and dance in exultation to primal Native American tribal rhythms. Shades of sunlike yellow, warm orange, and daybreak rust bathe the stage as we are invited to experience the cultural impact of these fascinating communities.
In “Dream Catcher,” Heather Magee and Jason Williams use a larger than life metal sculpture (think of a mobile jungle gym) to glide each other around the full length of the stage. The movements require an unbelievable amount of strength and stamina but an even greater sense of trust as the audience catches its breath in precarious anticipation. Nomad’s “Mountain Walk East” adds even more mystery through its’ repetitive percussive and soothing soundtrack. “Pole Dance” and “Dream Catcher” are from Opus Cactus, one of the groups previous shows celebrating and honoring desert life.
Who knew that one could have so much fun with a table? Apparently Jason Williams. In “Table Talk,” he hops in on a wooden table, lays horizontal, then uses the inanimate object as his dance partner. His lightning speed movements are often squirrel-like and frenetic. Still, each is deliberate and precise. By the end of the dance, he has hoisted the table on his back and furiously spins it to the climactic finish.
More props appear in the cowboy-inspired “Daddy Long Legs,” which was created for the company’s 35th anniversary. Williams joins Jonathan Eden and Jacob Stainback, each outfitted with hidden stilts as they attempt to outmaneuver each other in playful competition. Gotan’s Project “Santa Maria” is the music selection and although it works with the choreography, it is all too common in performance art.
“Light Reins” and “Paper Trails” also celebrate the dance company’s 35th anniversary and are a first for New York audiences. In the former, five women imitate the movement and illuminating patterns of fireflies. The latter relies heavily on projections. With lengthy sheets of paper, words appear on the screen. As the work progresses, each dancer twirls around with crumpled paper before culminating into an entire clump center stage. There is likely a more profound meaning here, which I attempted to make sense of from the words and phrases. I came up short.
The two best pieces came early in the piece: “Tuu” and “Marigolds.” In “Tuu,” two performers twist and contort their bodies in slow motion, intersecting and dissecting themselves in surreal fashion. Watching it makes one wonder whether the law of gravity exists in MOMIX’s universe.
“Marigolds” begins as five female dancers are shrouded in bright orange silks, slithering on the floor. Slowly, their faces emerge as these flowers spring to life and bloom into samba dancers. Visually, they look like more attractive versions of Dr. Suess’ Lorax (along with the same level of playfulness).
Mr. Pendleton and Associate Director Cynthia Quinn obviously have a great comedic sense and infuse humorous moments into their choreography whenever they can. Perhaps the funniest number happens in the finale. “If You Need Some Body” brings the whole ensemble together — along with rag dolls that resemble the Incredible Crash Dummies (from the early 90s PSAs on safe driving). Set to J.S. Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major,” they jerk and whirl their partners around the stage with hilarious fashion and campiness.
Not everything in the evening’s repertoire makes sense, but it doesn’t need to. Like life itself, sometimes talent and beauty defy comprehension. There is no shortage of either with MOMIX.
175 Eighth Avenue, NYC
Through August 12
Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or Facebook.