MOMIX: 'Alchemia' Strikes Gold

By Raphael Maurice
In Culture

MOMIX’s “Alchemia” brought a dazzling hit to St. Louis this weekend.  The athleticism and grace exhibited by the dancers/illusionists in this company alone are worth the price of ticket, and Moses Pendleton, Artistic Director, has seen to it that the eyes and ears of each viewer will be stunned and pleased. Drawing from W.B. Yeats and Carl Jung—certainly no strangers to unorthodox ideas in the realm of magic, metrics and music—MOMIX, from beginning to finish, create striking tableaus that are dreamlike and erotic.  The show runs 80 minutes, and though some reviewers have complained about not having an intermission, I proudly disagree with them. When watching this performance, I wondered how an intermission would naturally occur, and I also wondered about the attention spans of most—not all—reviewers.  In short, I was glued to my seat.

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Photo courtesy of Dance St. Louis

The men and women in MOMIX are some of the most beautiful humans one could hope to see, and that’s where some of the eroticism enters. Let’s be clear, though: To appreciate form and tone and grace, without wanting to possess the bodies where these attributes reside, is what I mean by eroticism.

To dream while not having what is before the eye is a great pleasure, and the unattainable is always the most enticing. Women spin and effortlessly glide across the stage at Touhill Performing Art Center, great living and breathing symbols of femininity—but don’t be surprised if certain gender roles are turned on their head.  The men in MOMIX are, in general, powerful and masculine symbols in “Alchemia.”  That being said, there are distinct moments in the dances when the men submit, as it were, to the powerful movements of the females. What could be, in life, closer to the truth?

Photo by Todd Burnsed

Photo by Todd Burnsed

The backdrop to each of the 17 songs in “Alchemia” is, to use a tired word but one that must suffice, surreal.  Moses Pendleton is no stranger to the surrealist world either, having staged Dadaist ballets centered on Picabia and Antoine Artaud.  The word genius – also overused and abused – could very well be apt in Pendleton’s case.

And in “Alchemia,” there is an amazing lack of distinction between the dancing bodies and the spaces that surround them.  All are part of the set, indeed all employ objects such as boxes, shifting, contorting cloths and subtle but powerful glow lights that incorporate in equal parts the body and the object.

In short, “Alchemia” has blended the body and the set in some sort of magic that makes a visual field wherein the dancer and the stage are inseparable. I left the performance with one of those dizzy, grateful frames of mind.  And I like being part of a mystery, and I love being overwhelmed by dancers and stage designs that make the impossible possible. After all, that’s what magic is. It’s good to witness brilliance that isn’t mired in the everyday, that pushes the senses.  It’s good to be bewildered, to take part in myth, to be in awe at the sight and sounds right in front of you.

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