Fri, Feb 18, 2005 - Page 14 News List

Opus Cactus creates prickles of delight with desert scenes

By Emily Drew  /  STAFF REPORTER

MOMIX extends the boundaries of dance. A desert flower blooms.

Photos courtesy of Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

The desert will blossom on stage next week when the internationally respected US dance company MOMIX performs Opus Cactus at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall


The two-part show reinvents the southwestern US' desert ecology and interprets movements of desert animals and plants, rituals and landscapes. Conceived and directed by choreographer Moses Pendleton, a Vermont native, the show was inspired by the giant saguaro cactus.

The 19 scenes stick with the broad desert theme but run the gamut of emotions and pace from haunted to joyful, from silent and still to joyous and rapid.

The 10 performers interact with new age and traditional music and stunning scenery to become spiny cactuses, snakes, insects and flowers -- in a physically strenuous combination of gymnastics, ballet, puppetry, pole vaulting and aerial arts.

Mechanical aids are also used -- such as hammocks, short pole vaults, dollies, trapezes and a huge rolling jack -- in unpredictable scenes that lead to a finale where a giant skeleton leads a penitential rite.

This last scene highlights the spiritual message of Opus Cactus, whose diverse dances reveal the nature of the desert as a place teeming with life despite the more common images of drab, taupe wastelands.

Pendleton's shows are known for their nature-inspired themes. His shows portray -- and are often dedicated to -- specific spirits of nature.

Pendleton took his first dance class at 18 but has been performing since he was a child, showing his father's dairy cows at fairs. He has performed in choreographed shows for TV, film and opera, besides the stage. His most widely-watched production was the closing of the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, where he choreographed and performed the solo dance. His interests have spanned music videos, classical ballet, The Tonight Show and Sesame Street.

He founded MOMIX (Moses' mix) in 1980 and developed his troupe with athletes from a variety of backgrounds. Troupe member Kara Oculato was a dancer at Hartford Ballet before joining MOMIX, for example. Japanese member Jun Kuribayashi had been a break-dancer and master of capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art.

Pendleton also recruited gymnasts, modern dancers and rock climbers to create a set of "dancer-illusionists" who have gained a reputation for their striking looks, personal charisma and sexy maneuvers.

The troupe is also known for its wide audience appeal. Its peers recognize its excellence and physical mastery, while even the most dance-illiterate child can appreciate and be fascinated by their shows, which never fail to blur the distinction between the natural spiritual world and playground fun.

Event Information:

What: Opus Cactus by MOMIX dance troupe

Where: Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, 505 Renai Rd, Sec 4, Taipei (國父紀念館,臺北市仁愛路四段505號)

When: Wednesday, Feb. 23 through Sunday, Feb. 27

Tickets: NT$600 to NT$2,500

More Information: (02) 2709 3788

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