Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, October 21, 1999

ICM Artists
The dancers of MOMIX will perform
"Orbit" tomorrow and Saturday.

Dance troupe
has a quirky streak

By Tim Ryan


Look -- up on the stage! Is it theater? Is it dance?

It's MOMIX, a company of quirky, athletic dancers/illusionists who use their bodies and props to create striking imagery, while their stage lighting and sound has all the bravura of a rock concert.

MOMIX, under the direction of choreographer and artistic director Moses Pendleton, returns to the Hawaii Theatre with "MOMIX in Orbit," a program that includes favorite dances from the repertory and new works: "Sputnik," "Danbury Moon," "Disc Man" and "Stick Shift."

"The company's philosophy is very untraditional," said Cynthia Quinn, Pendleton's wife and a MOMIX veteran. "But all the dancers are pretty nontraditional as well because some of us are gymnasts, swimmers, even a nationally rated rock climber."

The dancers refer to their art form as "Momixian," and to themselves as "Mixtechs."

"What's so wonderful about 'MOMIX' is we're allowed a lot of creative input," Quinn, 46, said. "The roles are designed for the individual dancers."

MOMIX in Orbit

Bullet On stage: 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday
Bullet Place: Hawaii Theatre, 1130 Bethel St.
Bullet Tickets: $20 to $40, available at the Hawaii Theatre box office
Bullet Charge by phone: 528-0506 or 526-4400

Unlike the Paul Taylor or Martha Graham companies, which have specific techniques built for dancers' bodies, MOMIX takes a more "philosophical approach about technique" Quinn said.

"We're very improvisational, more in the spirit of modern dance pioneers who broke away from ballet to see how the individual dancer moves and what makes that dancer special," she said.

Quinn said MOMIX dancers don't even start with a blueprint of a new movement.

"For us, the creative process is very chaotic, very loose," she said. "Everyone is talking. There are some big arguments. Music is playing, we video everything and improvise, improvise improvise."

But slowly, the pieces do come together and a dancer's "uniqueness" becomes more appreciated as the piece is fit to it, Quinn said.

"The work is magical, surreal and physically challenging," said Quinn who will perform three solos in the Hawaii performances.

Quinn dances in the six-minute "White Widow," hanging from a rope and symbolically moving to represent the loss of love. She describes another piece, "Medusa," as "very oceanic and other worldly." In the 5-year-old "The Wind-Up," Quinn continually turns on her axis in what she describes as "a cosmic experience."

"I'm always in a sort of mystical control of a Styrofoam ball that's attached to my finger by a single piece of tape," she said.

That piece came from the larger "Baseball," commissioned by the San Francisco Giants to inaugurate a spring-training stadium in Arizona five years ago.

Quinn decided to make "The Wind Up" "something very feminine."

"So I decided on using this black velvet dress and then someone came in with a very large styrofoam ball that I taped to my one finger," she said. "When I turn it was like I was pitching the ball. It's all very elegant within the context of the piece.

"I see my character as the baseball diamond goddess who is mythical, majestic and doing this amazing pitch for six minutes."

One of the new dances, "Sputnik," is a 10-minute routine that uses a red-accented tableau suggesting primitive rites. Giant poles become spokes attached to a bowl-shaped hub in which sits a proud priestess. Dancers adorn the spokes as the wheel-like structure rotates and undulates, lifting and descending to the music.

Of the other new pieces, "Danbury Moon" was inspired by composer Stephen Sondheim; "Stick Shift" features a trio of men flying around the stage using 15-foot poles to catapult themselves. And Quinn described "E.C." as a human shadow-puppet piece performed by the entire company behind a screen in which extraterrestrial figures do a kind of dance.

Despite the athleticism of their performances, MOMIX dancers rarely crash into each other.

"There's certainly a lot of potential for accidents, but amazingly few of them," said Quinn, who graduated from the University of California at Riverside with a dance degree. "The accidents that do happen are really stupid things like dropping something on your foot, stubbing your toe, or running into a light stand."

Quinn said that although she's been performing some dances for years, they are ever changing.

"I've been doing 'Medusa' for 15 years and 'White Widow' for almost 10 and they keep evolving because they are living entities, constantly growing.

"Dances go through puberty like a child, then you may pass them on to someone else before you get them back and they've grown into another form."

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