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Review, 4-8: WYSIWYG
'Opus' Momix: Is that all there is?
By Aimee Tsao
Copyright 2003 Aimee Tsao
BERKELEY -- April 5,
another Saturday night, another dance performance at Zellerbach
Hall. Forewarned by my editor, at least I wasn't disappointed as
I had gone with no expectations. The work, "Opus Cactus" performed
by MOMIX, is very relevant to our current cultural situation. It
reveals more by what is missing than what is there. This company,
under the direction of Moses Pendleton, has been around for more
than 20 years and has perfected its presentation. Its dancers have
ungodly strength and can do things I could barely imagine possible
and yet, they are not credited individually on the program for each
section/dance. The amazing visual effects are nothing more than
that, tricks and gimmicks. Often very beautiful, in fact, rather
stunning, they exist with the merest pretense of context. It is
entertainment pure and simple. For those of us who like our dance
to express something about human experience, qualities or, heaven
forbid, emotions, we won't find it here. Not even a good abstraction
of an idea.
My frustration lies
in that so much talent and work has gone into the production; the
lighting, costumes and sets, the precision of the ensemble are all
on the highest level, yet it seems like a vaudeville show, one act
after another, especially in the second half, when the curtain comes
down after each segment. For me, all the technical aspects should
be contributing to a larger picture, not just for the sake of themselves.
It is like a painter who mixes incredible colors -- translucent,
opalescent, vibrating, deep or rich hues, that move you by their
sheer brilliance, subtlety, complexity or saturation. But then he
paints a single square on a canvas and places it next to another
one of a different single color. What about using those gorgeous
colors to paint a picture, combine them in some unique way that
has its own architecture, composition, not necessarily a figurative
picture, but using the juxtaposition of those colors in various
shapes and textures to stimulate the viewer to think beyond the
surface of what is seen? That is what art is supposed to do.
"Opus Cactus" has a
general theme, the desert, but why aren't the bird and the tumbleweed
on stage at the same time, or why isn't there some interaction between
the men dancing with the poles and the scorpion? The woman in the
hammock which turns out to be a bungee sling could be used as the
starting point, as she falls asleep after her restless tossing and
turning to dream about all the life forms in the desert and how
they relate to each other. I even envisioned telling some of the
Native American tales about Coyote, the archetypal trickster.
This piece is symptomatic
of the malaise that afflicts popular culture in the United States
today. There is no depth. In computer jargon, WYSIWYG, what you
see is what you get. All the glitz and glamor, but no guts. Peggy
Lee meant something when she sang, "Is that all there is?" And I
ask MOMIX and Pendleton the same question, but expecting more than
a rhetorical answer.
Opus Cactus was conceived
and directed by Moses Pendleton, assisted by Cynthia Quinn, Kori
Darling, Brian Sanders, Craig Berman, Amthaymany Keohavong, Nicole
Loizides, Jane'l Caropolo, Kara Oculato, Brian Simerson, Michael
Holdsworth, and the Ballet Arizona. It was performed in Berkeley
by Caropolo, Loizides, Jennifer Black, Todd Burnsed, John Corsa,
Kevin Gibbs, Sara Kappraff, Ari Loeb, Natali Lomonte, Heather Magee,
Tim Melady, and Jesse Robb.
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