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Opus Catcus' 2016 a Transcendent Dance Fantasia

by Lewis J Whittington
May 19, 2016
Prince Theater
1412 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 422-4580
Green dayglo Tumbleweeds (or LED lit) spin in the desert night to prologue Moses Pendleton's 2016 refreshed MOMIX fav "Opus Cactus" for an extended run to close out the NextMove season at the Prince Theater. A revisit to the 19 desert tableux directed by Pendleton in collaborating with dancer-choreographers in the company conjuring a night of fantasia inspired by the American Southwestern desert. It is still full of beautiful and savage botanicals, creatures and hybrid dance fauna that altogether transports the imagination.

Fade in on a fiery sunset backdrop as the ‘Cactus Wren’ danced by Jenna Marie Graves who started her career at the Philadelphia High School of the Performing Arts and also danced with Eleone Dance Theater here. Graves' bird is a statuesque silhouette at first, moving with steeled, angular arabesques, contrasted with lunges and crouched pirouettes ala Cossack dancers. She just as suddenly scurries off as an ensemble of five form steely body-sculptures of ‘Morning Star.’

Next, the twanging metallic strings of Australian musician Adam Plack's ‘The Hunt’ scores ‘The Pole Dance’ with a trio of men in warrior briefs vaulting over the stage elegantly between a series of ritualized moves with the poles that segue into acrobatic patterns with leaps and muscled friezes.

‘Desert Blooms’ the first of the short interludes with figures in silk colorful fabric that morph into night blooms, their fluid petals swirls around their bodies. Later, four dancers are in precariously static head stands, their mouthing secret desert code.

Also mysterious are four female desert fan-dancers creatures in Busby Berkeley geometric clusters on an arid plain with oversized fern fans, that unfold as tutus as the dance on demi-pointe around the stage.

In contrast, there is no desert mystique in the snake dances for five women whose bodies are wrapped vipers in a coldblooded dance worthy of Vegas.

But, the ‘Gila’ is still a fascinating lizardly dance as depicted by a quartet of males interlocked with their bodies slogging and writhing over the stage with monstrous beauty. The crowned head of the Gila in sensorial dance of ecstasy. One section of the creature gets away for a breakaway worm dance, but they all end up on top of each other exhausted from this desert party.

The central duet with Steven Ezra and Rebecca Rasmussen scored to Mickey Hart’s ‘Menitation’ clamped to his back, their combined limbs carving kaleidoscopes in the air, responding to the environment, have a series of cryptic and beautiful and athletic moves. It is earthy, sensual and hypnotic at one point Rasmussen is on the floor and Ezra spins her body that she freezes into lotus position - exemplar of the Zen aspects of this piece, both for the dancers and the audience.

Brian Sanders, a former member of the Momix, now artistic director of BrianSanders JUNK, Philly’s most versatile dance-acrobatic troupe is credited for choreography on the entrancing "Fire-Walker." The solo, scored to Dead Can Dance’s "Mother Tongue" was danced in this performance by Gregory de Armound whose feet lit somehow with flames as he executed a series tribal incantations laced with splits and one spectacular fiery somersault.

"Fire-Walker" was followed by "First Contact" with three women in spectral white fringed dance-skins. They "walked" on air via suspended harnesses floating around the desert graveyard with a "day of the dead" winged skull puppet looming over them.

Opus Cactus 2016's music/soundscape was just as transporting as the work's visuals, with ambient, percussive and mystical sonics. The work was so surreal and meditative as to be a transcendent theatrical experience.

Photo © & courtesy of MOMIX


Photo © & courtesy of MOMIX


Photo © & courtesy of MOMIX


Photo © & courtesy of MOMIX

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