Athletic Aesthetic

Moses Pendleton choreographs feats with his dance company Momix

Ask Moses Pendleton about his dance company Momix’s next show in D.C. and he’ll give you a perfectly lucid description — and then crack wise.

Botanica is a show that hopefully gives you the feeling of going through the four seasons, using basically the garden and natural world as inspiration,” he says, continuing on a bit before stopping to laugh. “Of course there is the opportunity to dream if you don’t like the show. If you have that kind of concentration.”

Momix Photo by Max-Pucciariello

Momix
Photo by Max-Pucciariello

Little doubt Botanica, which Momix performs next weekend at Lisner Auditorium as presented by WPAS, is as engaging and full of whimsy as its creator. Pendleton jokes that he first performed at Lisner with Pilobolus, the acclaimed company he co-founded before Momix, “Way, way, way back to the beginning of time.”

Pendleton formed Momix in 1981, which was years before other less-dance-centric companies, from Cirque du Soleil to the Blue Man Group, emerged to help sell the mainstream on the idea of physical, even surrealistic, theater. The idea didn’t come to Pendleton by dream. “I was born and raised on a dairy farm, and my dream was to be a skier,” says the man born in Vermont who spent his summers as a teenager skiing in Oregon. But after he broke his leg in a college skiing accident, Pendleton took a dance class, “just by accident, to get back in shape.” And that’s how his background as an athlete clearly inspired what has become his career as a “dancer/athlete, putting an aesthetic on the athletic.”

“I spend a lot of time decanting the past in various conversations,” Pendleton initially says about plans for his future. Turns out the man who recently turned 65 is gradually working with “a few trusty assistants” to archive and digitize his materials for an eventual memoir. “The memoirs of an amnesiac,” he teases. Pendleton also spends extended periods every day walking and swimming. (He retired from dancing years ago.) And that physical activity helps fuel his creativity and his unabated passion for defying expectations, certainly when it comes to his choreography.

“If people leave with a little less gravity in their step,” Pendleton says in a final comment about Botanica, “it’ll be successful.”

Momix perform Friday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26, at 8 p.m., at Lisner Auditorium, The George Washington University, 730 21st St. NW. Tickets are $28 to $48. Call 202-994-6851 or visit lisner.org or wpas.org.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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