Famous dancer-illusionist company performing in Williamsport

Published 01.17.2020


The Community Arts Center is providing a unique, sweet treat for northcentral Pennsylvania on Valentine’s Day: a performance that promises to stir the heart, soul and imagination.

“VIVA MOMIX,” a two-act show from renowned dance-illusionist company MOMIX, will take the stage at the performing arts venue on Friday, Feb. 14, at 7:30 p.m.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary season, the Washington, Connecticut-based MOMIX consists of contemporary athletic dancers who use music, props, lighting and inventive choreography to transport audiences to varying depths of emotions. “VIVA MOMIX” is a compilation of highlights from past MOMIX shows.

Moses PendletonMOMIX’s founder and artistic director is Moses Pendleton, one of America’s most innovative and widely performed choreographers. Pendleton has worked extensively in film, television and opera and as a choreographer for special events, such as the 1980 and 2014 Winter Olympics.

He chose the name MOMIX after a milk supplement he fed to veal calves at his family farm in Vermont. A self-described “jock,” Pendleton was a member of the Dartmouth College ski team and aspired to be a skier. Twice breaking his leg in downhill accidents ended that dream but led to another. As part of his recuperation process, he took a dance class at Dartmouth, which introduced him to the creative outlet that has shaped his life.

Now 70, Pendleton said he is “delirious” with what his job has allowed him to do. MOMIX has performed on five continents and been featured in numerous film and television productions.

Below, Pendleton provides background on his creation and what the Williamsport-area audience can expect on Feb. 14.

MOMIX has been described as a multimedia experience that combines athletic dance, music, costumes, props and talent. As the founder and artistic director, how do you describe the company and its various shows?
MOMIX is a stream of visual, physical theater that is at times sensual, comic and surreal. It moves along at a rapid clip. The show that’s coming (to Williamsport) is a compilation of highlights from our various productions. There’s no real logic to the show other than that of surprise. The music is eclectic, from rock to classical. If you’re into football or sports, you certainly will be impressed by the physical abilities of the company. If you’re into dance and music, there’s another level to enjoy for sure.

MOMIX is known for using props to extend the range of human motion. The props and costumes are a way to create variety of what is happening visually. Much of our work is magical and metamorphic and shape shifting, as it is in a dream. I think the show has resonance with all ages.

How did you select the different pieces for “VIVA MOMIX?”
As we are going into our 40th anniversary season, we have a whole lot to draw from. We have enough to have four or five completely different compilation albums, all of high quality. The pieces were picked for this show to try to give you a good cross section of the MOMIX aesthetics, mixing the sensual with the humorous and the fast speed with the slow.

MOMIX is a spinoff of the Pilobolus Dance Theater, which you co-founded in 1971 while studying at Dartmouth. Why did you create MOMIX?
I can use the band metaphor. I wanted to strike out on my own and have more artistic control. I was looking for new ways to maintain the creative spirit, and I thought expanding into another company and being more in control was a way to do that. It’s a pretty normal story actually.

Where does your inspiration originate in creating and choreographing MOMIX shows?
I wander in the wilderness, like Moses looking for the burning bushes of ideas. I’m inspired by nature and what it does to connect to the magic and mystery of being alive. I spend a great deal of time studying forms in nature, taking millions of photographs and training the eye to see the things at first that you don’t always see. I’m studying that, fascinated by it and inspired by it. There’s always a possibility some of that enthusiasm will find itself in the next MOMIX piece.

How many dancers will be part of the Williamsport performance, and can you provide a sense of their training regimen?
There will be nine dancers. We’re in a physical business. The body is what we study and work with and make a living with. It’s not unlike a professional athlete. There are all the rigors of staying in incredible shape to be able to fulfill the choreographic vision. It takes a lot of effort if you’re trying to imitate animals, plants and rocks. You need to be in super condition to achieve those memetic capabilities.

The dancers do a normal ballet barre, two hours a day. Many of them also do cross training and yoga. They have to keep themselves in prime physical condition. We’re really into a celebration of the body.

Is there a symbiotic relationship between the dancers and audience?
I hope so. There is an illusion with the magic, the special lighting and costumes that creates otherworldly imagery and connects the human to the plant and animal and mineral. That’s all there. I think if that’s working, if that’s projecting, there is certainly some tension, a collective energy from the audience. And it’s reciprocal.

Following the performance, how do you think the audience will feel?
I’ve often said if they go out of the theater with a little less gravity in their step, it’s been a success for everyone. The show has been so meticulously worked out and created and organized that I would suggest that the audience not think too much and let MOMIX take them on little trips, little escapes from reality. It’s very positive. There are many inspiring sections that I think the audience will be elevated by.

For ticket information on “VIVA MOMIX” at the Community Arts Center on Friday, Feb. 14, call the box office at 570-326-2424.

The Community Arts Center is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pennsylvania College of Technology. It is one of the top performing arts venues on the East Coast. Since its reopening in 1993, approximately 1.5 million guests have enjoyed over 1,000 productions.

Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education. Email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.