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Published: Monday, 11/11/2002

Dance opus' eclectic mix jumbles work's message

BY STEVEN CORNELIUS
BLADE MUSIC CRITIC

Visual imagery of occasionally startling purity combined with muscular, yet refined modern dance and danced gymnastics yesterday afternoon at the Valentine Theatre. There, the ensemble Momix presented “Opus Cactus,” a show conceived by the company's founder and artistic director, Moses Pendleton.

The production, built on a collage of brief and only marginally connected cameos, is an eclectic mix of the sounds, sights, and spiritual ideas one might associate with desert life. Images are drawn from a variety of Native American traditions and well as from the shapes and movement of desert flora and fauna. Sounds, all with New Age-style updating, come from the Southwest, Australia, India, and the Middle East.

What are we to make of such a jumble? The show may have been representative of some sort of inner journey but it seemed little more than a set of attractive images.

We witnessed the movements of lizards, water bugs (if I read correctly the image of dancers scooting across stage while lying on skateboards), and a variety of mythological creatures.

All of these movements were entertaining and remarkably innovative, but at the show's end, there was little sense of where we had gone and, more importantly, why we left to go there in the first place.

In this sense, the show's totality, despite its inspirational moments, is oddly deflating.

Perhaps the afternoon's most arresting image, was the first. The curtain rose to a darkened stage devoid of props except for cacti at either end. Suspended at center stage is a hammock that seems to be held aloft by the stars themselves. In it rests a sinewy man, though his whiteness suggests the purity of a god.

The suspending ropes turn out to be bungee chords. The man/god proceeds to float, play, dance, and perhaps also dream as his hammock glides up and down through space.

It is a difficult image to follow but, with the assistance of superb lighting design, Pendleton found many strong moments. Tumbleweed soared and danced across a blackened stage. A woman danced the characteristics of a bird with remarkable authenticity.



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