MOMIX Botanica blooms at The Orpheum

Final installment of The Orpheum Theatre's dance series


Remember those time-lapse films you watched in elementary school of a sprout unfurling, growing and evolving into a flower? Now put that on stage and add giant flags, black tube tendrils, white umbrella palm trees and human bodies. Mix in dramatic lighting and eclectic music and enter a world where dancers swim like dolphins through the air and stride across the stage on giant legs, or waltz with trees and frolic in a surf of silk. This is internationally renowned dance troupe, MOMIX, bringing their Botanica production to The Orpheum on Saturday, October 5th.

The overall effect is so witty and startling, you catch yourself wondering if these illusions are really created with only props, lighting and the human body. Danielle McFall says they most certainly are. She ought to know the former Wichitan was a MOMIX dancer for almost eleven years before recently transitioning to arts management and production for another dance company.

The Magic Behind MOMiX

To create the otherworldy effects in the Botanica production, McFall and other dancers worked closely with MOMIX founder and artistic director Moses Pendleton, who practices a very "creative process." Pendleton would bring a prop or piece of music or an idea into the dance studio, and the dancers would have a "free-for-all" explains McFall, "We all start going through our ideas in movement, exploring the music using our body it can be really playful and exciting."

One idea to blossom from those planted seeds is the piece "Centaurs." The dance features both male and female centaurs, consisting of one upright dancer at the front of the mythical beast, and a second bent at a ninety degree angle to form the horse.

"When we were first learning how to make our bodies work like a centaur it was a bit humorous: How do we hold on to this person? How do we gallop? We're falling all over the place and nobody wants to be the tail end." In the final production, these are like no centaurs you've ever seen mischievous, playful Pucks with synchronized, lightning-quick feet.

There's also intricate synchronization behind the scenes. In one black light piece glowing, green palm fronds sway against a velvety black background, then transform into a figure whose arms float away and morph into flapping seagulls. "What you don't see," says McFall, "is a whole other set of choreography that's happening behind the curtains, so to speak. That's always been a big part of what makes the magic."

Ballet Wichita brought the last MOMIX production to town in 2007, according to Orpheum President Jennifer Wright. "They had a stellar reception with over eight hundred people in attendance. This promises to be an incredible performance that will be visually stunning!"

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