“Viva Momix” will be performed in Portland Friday. Photo by Max Pucciariello

When Moses Pendleton first created dance performances in the early 1970s, his only relevant experience had been “dancing with girls at the record hop,” he says. His inspiration came from elsewhere.

So it makes sense that Momix, the dance group that Pendleton founded and runs, is not typical or easy to define. The group is made up of dancers who use their bodies, props, lighting, theatrical settings and acrobatics to create illusions and imagery. The group, which tours around the world, will perform at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium Friday. The show is being brought to Maine by Portland Ovations.

“We want people to expect the unexpected. It’s visual, physical theater, a fantasy world created by the dancers,” said Pendleton, based in Washington, Connecticut.

The performance Friday is called Viva Momix and is a blend of dances from the company’s various shows over the years, Pendleton said. Some of the performance will be from a show called “Opus Cactus,” where a dancer emulates the moves of the cactus wren, mostly on one leg.

Momix, a company of dancer-illusionists, will perform in Portland Friday. Photo by Max Pucciariello

There will be a performance where five dancers are representing marigolds, in brightly colored costumes, dancing to a samba beat. In another dance, black light will be used to create images of snow geese on dancers bodies.

The dancers in Momix use props and costumes to create “illusions” that trick the audience’s eyes, Pendleton said. Long poles are a favorite prop, used for carrying dancers while they perform or for pole vaulting as part of a dance. The acrobatic prowess of dancers can be seen in many of the dances. They carry each other on their shoulders, juggle them with their feet and intertwine their bodies. The dancers in the troupe all have a variety of dance and movement training, including ballet, yoga, contemporary dance and circus arts.

“I get ideas, maybe from watching the movement of the flames (in his fireplace) and then I sketch them and bring them to the studio,” said Pendleton.

Pendleton bills the performance as family-friendly, and that’s the reason the show starts at 7 p.m., so that it’s more convenient for children. A total of nine dancers will be performing in Portland, Pendleton said.

Momix, a company of dancer-illusionists, will perform in Portland Friday. Photo by Max Pucciariello

Pendleton grew up on a dairy farm in northern Vermont and spent summer vacations with his family at Popham Beach. He was a competitive skier, but not a dancer, when he attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire to study English.

But he took a dance class there and fell in with other creative-minded students who started “very physically-minded” dances. They formed a troupe, Pilobolus, which performed at a Frank Zappa concert in the early 1970s and then began touring. By the late 70s, Pendleton began working on his own. In 1980, he choreographed the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, and formed Momix the same year. In 2014, he choreographed a dance for the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

“I’m a sculptor or painter when it comes to dance. I design imagery that moves,” Pendleton said.


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