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MOMIX Mixes Elements and Theatrics in ‘Alchemia’

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Ancient alchemists sought to change metals into gold, but the innovative dance troupe MOMIX achieves something at once more real and more ethereal in its new show “Alchemia”: the transfiguration of bodies into flowing water, wisps of air, rocks of ages, and raging flames. Transformation and illusion are staples in MOMIX shows, and as evidenced by performances featuring names like “Botanica,” “Lunar Sea,” and “Opus Cactus,” science is also a recurring motif.

In fact, troupe founder Moses Pendleton, who admits to being “energized and influenced by … the natural elements,” often draws on science to inspire his choreography, making MOMIX a natural partner for the World Science Festival. Dancers from MOMIX have delighted attendees at WSF galas and programs over the past few years. Here’s a taste of their illusionist artistry on display in the “Dark Side of the Universe” program at the 2011 Festival.

And below are two clips from performances at our gala programs in 2015 and 2012, respectively.

‘Alchemia,’ Water, and the Evolution of Life

In MOMIX’s newest performance, a series of vignettes loosely follows the evolution of life on earth: Everything emerges from water. Pendleton accentuates his dancers’ skill with imaginative props and costumes, high-wire acrobatics, video artistry, and evocative soundscapes. Dancers are doubled and quadrupled by elaborate arrangements of mirrored walls; in one piece, they wear dresses equipped with movable pieces to transform the shapes of the body from pinup bombshell to Venus of Willendorf-esque proportions at will.

Wall Street Journal dance reviewer Robert Greskovic called the show “an exhilarating showcase of marvels for the men and women of Momix, who cavort for their eagerly applauding audiences like so many skilled acrobats in their element. Mr. Pendleton has made them gleam like gold.”

While “Alchemia,” like the alchemists, owes a great debt to mysticism, it has another foot placed firmly in the reality of nature. After all, as Isaac Newton wrote in Optics (in a passage Pendleton quotes in his program), “the changing of bodies into light and light into bodies is very conformable to the course of nature, which seems delighted with transmutation.”

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