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Review: MOMIX Brings the Magical Southwest To the Joyce in ‘Opus Cactus’

By Mercedes Vizcaino, Contributing Writer, July 3, 2017

MOMIX takes New York City by storm with Opus Cactus. After a twelve-year hiatus from performing locally, the company, founded and led by artistic director Moses Pendleton, is back for a new season at the Joyce Theater. Opus Cactus is a celebration of the landscape of the American Southwest. With the use of magical props, clever lighting, and impressive creative dance, audiences are transfixed by the interpretation of this region’s beautiful geography and natural beauty.

(l. to r.) Rebecca Rasmussen, Beau Campbell, and Lauren Jaeger in ‘Ostrich of the Imagination’ movement; photo: Eddy Fernandez.

At first glance, the opening sequence appears to be a light show with the rolling, glowing objects resembling tumbleweeds, “passing through the desert” against a black backdrop, but I was pleasantly surprised. These enchanting tumbleweeds eventually morph into the dancers: a seamless transition frequently used throughout the show. The dancers do an incredible job of creating the illusion of insects and animals found in the desert and national parks of the Southwest. The choreography is succinct in using the dancers’ bodies to transition from object to animal; especially notable are Ostrich of the Imagination and Prickly Pear in Part 1 of the performance.

The use of dappling sunlight over the dancers’ bodies and rich background colors embody the desert sky and gives the audience a sense of the natural wonders inhabiting the Southwest. The music serves as a pivotal character to emphasize the setting; Native American, Arabic and Australian sounds permeate throughout the dance sequences to give life to the performer’s movements.

(l. to r.) Rebecca Rasmussen and Steven Ezra in ‘Dreamcatcher’ movement; photo: Eddy Fernandez.

Following the performance, the audience was treated to a Q&A with Artistic Director, Moses Pendleton and New York Times cultural critic, Anna Kisselgoff. Pendleton revealed his inspiration for Opus Cactus; MOMIX, as defined by Pendleton, is a veal calf supplement used in farms. Being raised on a farm in Vermont, he was fascinated with nature and dance and was intrigued by how he could incorporate these elements into the upcoming performance. He accomplished his mission by casting the perfect dancers to use their bodies as an extension of surreal props to create the illusion of animals and make it believable.

Pendleton succeeded in intertwining modern dance, ballet and expressionism and bringing his acclaimed show to the stage at the Joyce Theater—a great performance not to be missed.


Opus Cactus presented by MOMIX at the Joyce Theater (175 Eighth Avenue) through July 16, 2017. Conceived and directed by Moses Pendleton; assisted by Cynthia Quinn, Kori Darling, Brian Sanders, Craig Berman, Amphaymany Keohavong, Nicole Loizides, Jane’l Caropolo, Kara Oculato, Brian Simerson, Michael Holdsworth and the Ballet Arizona; costume design and construction by Phoebe Katzin; lighting design by Joshua Starbuck and Moses Pendleton; puppet design by Michael Curry; sculpture design and construction by Alan Boeding. Dancers: Anthony Boccini, Beau Campbell, Samantha Chiesa, Greg Dearmond, Steven Ezra, Lauren Jaeger, Sarah Nachbauer, Matt Ortner, Rebecca Rassmussen and Jason Williams.


Cover: MOMIX company in ‘Opus Cactus;’ photo: Charles Azzopardi.


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