A Desert Oasis Rich in Dance

Dance troupe Momix rolls into town like rhythmic tumbleweeds to explore the beauty behind the American Southwest.

Photo courtesy of Charles Azzopardi

I try my best to not use clichés like “visually stunning” and “keeps you on the edge of your seat” to describe performances. In the case of Opus Cactus, the latest work from the dance illusionist troupe Momix (its founder and artistic director, Moses Pendleton, choreographed the opening ceremony at the 2014 Sochi Olympics), though, those clichés are hard to avoid.

Photo courtesy of Charles Azzopardi

Conceived and directed by Pendleton, the 18 dance numbers have a Cirque du Soleil feel from the very beginning, only with illusions—several dancers form the uncanny shape of a scorpion scampering across the desert, for example—instead of overt acrobatics. Vibrant color is as much a part of the performance as the dancers. Inspired by the American Southwest, the show is full of blazing reds, lime greens, daisy yellows, and burnt ochers. The backdrop is typically lit with a single color and the performers glow in complementary hues against it.

“Desert Storm” dramatically opens the show: The stage is completely black and what appear to be neon green geometric toys roll around the stage, changing shapes and sizes as if they were desert tumbleweeds (dancers in black are manipulating them). Immediately following is “Cactus Wren/Morning Star,” in which a single dancer in red mimics a bird’s beak shifting to and fro.

In “Caravan,” male dancers lie on their backs on rolling platforms bicycling female dancers on their legs so that the women appear to be walking through the desert with the slow sway of camels. Desert dwellers—lizards, birds, snakes, and insects—are all evoked by the dancers’ bodies at various points. These evocations are innovative and clever and supremely fun to watch, but they are also serenely beautiful. Consider “Sundance,” in which dancers flutter around on their tiptoes, manipulating huge yellow fans so they look like the sun and birds’ vibrant tails against an iridescent blue background.

What can I say, it is visually stunning and my family and I were on the edge of our seats.

Photo courtesy of Charles Azzopardi

Why You Should Go: The mix of sheer athleticism, captivating illusionary modern dance, and bursts of glorious American Southwest–inspired colors make this a truly unique performance from a dance troupe known for breaking boundaries.

Momix Presents Opus Cactus
Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at West 19th Street), Chelsea
Through Sunday, July 16
Tickets start at $10

Let our experience advisers plan your way through Chelsea with our eclectic picks of things to see, do, and eat.