A Dance About A Cactus

It is rare that I go to see dance performances at the National Arts Centre.  I typically prefer to attend theatre performances due to past acting experience as well as a minor in theatre as part of my undergraduate degree.  But I am no stranger to dance.  My mother was a professional dancer before I was born, so not only was I immersed into dance lessons as a child, but I have grown up in an environment that encourages dance.  Although I only danced recreationally in my childhood, my sister became a competitive dancer at a young age and has become a professional dancer as well.  With all of this dance in my life, one would think that I would be more likely to attend dance performances at the NAC.  The reality of the situation is that dance is just not my cup of tea.  I remember attending performances of classics such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake and being bored.  I can appreciate what goes into these performances, but overall its just not for me.

That being said, I do attend the occasional NAC dance performance.  On the rare occasions I have bought tickets for dance shows, it is as a gift for my mother; otherwise, the dance shows I attend are the result of free tickets that I have earned from renewing my NAC subscriptions early.  But when I get these dance tickets for the NAC I don’t get tickets for any old kind of dance.  I avoid the more classical performances and head straight to the strange and unique ones.

Momix’s Opus Cactus was perfect for me.  To call this performance strange and unique is a massive understatement.

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I am honestly struggling to describe what I watched.  By the time this hour and forty five minute performance was over, I did not feel like I had been there for almost 2 hours.  I wanted to keep watching and I easily could have watched the entire show all over again.

Under the direction of founder and artistic director Moses Pendleton, Momix is an internationally renowned troupe of dance-illusionists and their Opus Cactus explores the desert through dance.  Each of the 18 dances in this show is filled with desert imagery and presents audiences with unique interpretations of the landscape, animal and plant life, and more.  Even the different pieces of music used for these dances seem to come from just about every part of the world in which deserts can be found.  The whole time I was watching this show I got the feeling that Pendleton became inspired by a cactus and designed an entire show around it.  If that sounds weird, it is – but Momix makes it work.

The predominant images used for the NAC’s promotional material features dancers who are simply dressed, wearing ballet shoes and holding large fans.  They are unique images, but there’s nothing too out of the ordinary.  I was both surprised and delighted to see that the show was a lot stranger than what it initially appeared to be.  For the first dance, you can’t even see any dancers.  The stage is pitch black.  It is simply occupied by a group of glowing orbs that expand and contract as they dance across the stage.  Each dance after this was completely different.  No two dances were the same as they each had their own unique props or gimmicks: large skirts, poles, contortions, puppets, doing “the worm”, numbers where dancers carried each other and/or combined their bodies to create new shapes, just to name a few.  And just when you think it can’t get any crazier, they set a dancer on fire.  There was a person dancing on stage wearing protective boots that had been lit on fire.  This show literally had everything.  And, of course, the dancers themselves executed all of this flawlessly.  Their sheer strength, as well as their artistry and impressive technique, was astounding.

For someone who only goes to see unique and strange dance performances, I sure made a good choice deciding to see this one.  No wonder Momix is an internationally renowned company – they deserve it.

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