Momix: Botanica | Sarah Carlson (Nov. 2012)

Sunday, November 4, 2012
Zoellner Arts Center
Lehigh University

By Sarah Carlson


Botanica’s use of set pieces, props, body extensions & projections is reminiscent of Alwin Nikolais and continually sparks ever more evocative imagery that verges on spiritual.  A series of large-scale projections like the opening image serve to frame the action and immerse the viewers in nature’s lush landscape. At one point, vibrant green leaves hover over sensual partnering in pools of light that suggest lily pads.  Later, pink frilly skirts float up & down transforming the dancers alternatively into lily blossoms or coral sea sponges or feisty flamenco dancers. Each element such as this skirt combined with the backdrop, music and movement is extremely fertile and has the power to manifest multiple layers of imagery.

The endlessly imaginative program unfolds to transport the viewer to another world; a world of nature magnified & mixed with a touch of myth and pagan spirituality. The best moments contain enough abstraction to suggest a multitude of interpretations as referenced above. Some sections become so literal that they border on hokey. At one point, two dancers connect at the waist to create a centaur. Several of these proud horse-humans prance around having a passionate spat that seems a bit contrived in the midst of such surreal beauty.

The opening image presented to the audience is an enormous white rose blossom projected on the entirety of the stage curtain. The flower symbolizes purity, perfection and very slowly, it recedes from us, getting smaller and smaller as if to suggest we might be moving away from being able to appreciate nature’s beauty... But Pendelton’s subtext is sparse. Mostly this program unfolds like a series of kaleidoscopic wonders; each section casts its own spell and the overall effect is magic.

Botanica’s use of set pieces, props, body extensions & projections is reminiscent of Alwin Nikolais and continually sparks ever more evocative imagery that verges on spiritual.  A series of large-scale projections like the opening image serve to frame the action and immerse the viewers in nature’s lush landscape. At one point, vibrant green leaves hover over sensual partnering in pools of light that suggest lily pads.  Later, pink frilly skirts float up & down transforming the dancers alternatively into lily blossoms or coral sea sponges or feisty flamenco dancers. Each element such as this skirt combined with the backdrop, music and movement is extremely fertile and has the power to manifest multiple layers of imagery.
The endlessly imaginative program unfolds to transport the viewer to another world; a world of nature magnified & mixed with a touch of myth and pagan spirituality. The best moments contain enough abstraction to suggest a multitude of interpretations as referenced above. Some sections become so literal that they border on hokey. At one point, two dancers connect at the waist to create a centaur. Several of these proud horse-humans prance around having a passionate spat that seems a bit contrived in the midst of such surreal beauty.

As the natural world is threatened by global warming, rain-forest devastation and human infringement on wildlife ecosystems, Botanica’s theme is especially poignant. The world we live in is filled with rare and spectacular beauty. Let’s respect it enough to be good stewards of its fragile splendor.