Beads, Balloons, and Blacklights: VIVA MOMIX at the Hanover Theater

Will Clark, Contributing Writer

Glued together by a quirky, experimental verve and delicate attention to costuming and acrobatics, MOMIX’s company of modern dancer-illusionists demonstrated their ability to entrance and awe at the Hanover Theater on the evening of February 8th. 

The show was an elegant, smooth display of special effects, choreography, and avant-garde sensibility featuring everything from a spring-loaded space waltz to a dancer twirling about the stage, bedecked by a sparkling curtain of beads. Billed as the vehicle for a “fantasy world” of “magical lighting and imagery,” the show, which celebrated the traveling company’s 35th anniversary, was a compilation of 17 independent, otherworldly dance routines which glowed with the nine performers’ agility, strength, and style, and maintained enough flexibility for performers to roll with the occasional mid-leap stumble or misdirected flying cowboy hat.

With each performance lasting a total of approximately 6 to 8 minutes, the dancers rotated through an eclectic mix of moods and performance styles. The show began with “Pleiades,” the aforementioned space-waltz, which included three performers in glittering white cocktail dresses, in a dimly lit starscape, twirling large, springy contraptions which resembled enormous metal jacks. 

As the dancers twirled and bounced, swinging the contraptions in tandem like three peaceful, New Age Darth Mauls, this reviewer got the first inkling of the weird and wonderful environment that MOMIX was capable of delivering.

The space dance was followed by a calming routine bathed in blue light (“Man Fan”), in which a single dancer used a flowing, 20-foot fan to mimic the swelling of waves on a beach (accompanied by recordings of the real thing). Among other particular standouts were “Dream Catcher,” featuring two dancers rolling around inside and on top of a large, mobile metal structure (perhaps the older, more experienced cousin of the space springs), “Aqua Flora,” where a lone female dancer twirled gracefully, a foot-length curtain of beads swinging like the rings of Saturn from her head, “Table Talk,” in which a male dancer executed a complex series of flips on top of an exposed kitchen table, and the comic interlude “Brainwave,” in which a single strand of blacklight-blue rope did the heavy lifting, manipulated from offstage, wiggling to the drumbeat and impishly teasing the audience.

The show did experience the occasional stumble, but aside from a couple minor wobbles during some of the early group numbers, the only error of note happened in the second act: during a 3-person performance where the dancers bounced around on inflated balloons like yoga balls, one of the dancers’ balloons exploded with a sharp “pop,” causing her to fall down squarely on her behind. Immediately she rolled gracefully on her side, like a reclining Renaissance model, while her co-stars continued hopping and the audience giggled. The (startled) grace with which the dancers adapted to their mistake mirrored the grace with which they succeeded, and even despite the mood-shattering slip-up, the troupe was back on their feet within minutes.

As the show ran to a close, I suddenly had to reckon with how entertained I had been by the pathos and beauty of this extraordinarily bizarre show: I found myself laughing uproariously at the final number, a chaotic, hilarious dance in which the dancers puppeteered a cast of mannequins to dance to violin music. 

In the hands of less practiced artists, scenes like this might come across as pretentious, alien avant-gardism. However, as conveyed by its mightily energetic, obviously enthused, and exquisitely talented cast, and as designed and choreographed by its visionary director and crew, VIVA MOMIX delivered a bead-twirling, fan-sweeping vision of creativity unbound by the mundane.