Moses Pendleton often sits at home by a roaring fire, listening to classical music and studying how the logs break apart and form abstract shapes. Flames leap and dance hypnotically, almost like the serpentine movements of the dancers who bring his choreography to life.
Pendleton finds inspiration all around him, from the cacti of the Sonoran Desert to the sunsets outside his antique home in Washington Depot, the sunflowers he grows, and music, especially music. Music inspires — and is an integral part of — many Momix dance theater pieces.
The founder and artistic director of Momix, a company of contemporary dancer-illusionists based in Washington, Pendleton is hard at work finding the right music and choreographing pieces for its 40th anniversary season, which kicks off Jan. 18-19 at the Warner Theatre in Torrington. The season will include a mix of old favorites and new pieces as well as highlights from Momix’s most recent shows, Alice and Viva Momix.
“It’s natural that we want to begin the celebration of our 40th season right here at home for our local audience who will have the chance to revisit the selection of company favorites, new and old,” says Pendleton, who co-founded the Pilobolus dance troupe in 1971 before breaking out on his own in 1980 to create Momix.
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The Warner Theatre has long had a close relationship with Momix. The dance company has premiered nearly all of its shows there before sending them off around the world. Momix has performed on stages on five continents and also worked in film and TV. With televised performances such as PBS’ Dance in America series, the company’s oeuvre has been broadcast to 55 countries.
In keeping with its name, Momix is all about the mix, and each show is a theatrical dance experience that ranges from the sensual to the athletic and the dynamic to the lyrical. Shows incorporate both humor and drama, using props, bodies, music, lighting and costumes in inventive ways.
While Pendleton spends much of his working hours thinking about bodies and movement to create the choreography, he also pays heed to technical aspects such as lighting and shadows. “It’s fascinating to see the impression of something that is not moving, but if the light is changing on it, it’s almost a sequence of everchanging imagery that is almost something indescribable.”
Longtime company dancer Heather Magee, who grew up in Danbury and joined Momix for its 2002 show Opus Cactus, says that what she loves most about Momix is its collaborative nature. While the artistic vision flows from Pendleton and associate director Cynthia Quinn, she says that dancers play a significant part in creating new pieces. “It’s thrilling and what I really love is that I can just lose myself in the process,” she says. “Moses and Cynthia are watching all the improvisation that myself or the other dancers are doing with whatever props they have given us or whatever piece of music, costumes or idea. They allow me to just run with it, so I feel fearless.”
Pendleton echoes her comments, saying that dancers help develop a role by embracing a subconscious exploration of that part — whether a marigold or Alice in Wonderland — and engaging in improvisation. “Everybody contributes to putting in what they can to pull that image into clarity. With a hint of understatement, he adds, “As collaborations go, this is a good one. It’s been successful for quite a while.”
Upcoming Momix shows
Momix will kick off its 40th-anniversary season at the Warner Theatre in Torrington with a special anniversary show on Jan. 18 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. For tickets, call the box office at 860-489-7180 or go to warnertheatre.org.
For all performance dates and tickets, go to momix.com/calendar.