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Photo: Charles Azzopardi courtesy of the National Arts Centre.

MOMIX: Opus Cactus is a fascinating modern dance spectacle—03.12.18 & 03.13.18

By Leah Geller on March 8, 2018



At the closing ceremonies of the 1980 Winter Olympics, a dancer and choreographer named Moses Pendleton created and performed a piece he called Momix. At the time, Pendleton was with Pilobolus, a dance collective he co-founded as a college student in New England.

Pendleton soon went on to found his own company and, almost four decades later, MOMIX is one of the most established names in American modern dance. I spoke with Cathy Levy, NAC Dance Executive Producer, about the upcoming performance of MOMIX’s Opus Cactus.

Apt613: This is the second time you’ve presented MOMIX as part of the NAC Dance season – the first was in 2011. What is it about the dance company that appeals to you?

Cathy Levy: After presenting MOMIX in 2011, my colleagues at the NAC kept stopping me in the hallway and asking, “When are you going to bring MOMIX back?”

There is something so fantastically unique about them — no one else is MOMIX. They take you on an incredible journey, using optical illusions, light and sets, to fly, to disappear. It’s a magical experience.

What’s fascinating is that, even though they’ve been doing the same kind of thing for 37 years, it just never gets tired. They operate at such a high level — what they do, they do so extremely well.

Tell me about the influential role MOMIX has played in the world of dance.

MOMIX was the first to take the dancer in a circus-like direction, bringing in elements of magic and daring. They use the dancer’s body to create illusions, to make work that is unpredictable. The audience is left thinking, “How did they do that?”

The company has influenced generations of performers and choreographers – like Elizabeth Streb, who combines dance with sport, gymnastics and American circus. And we see circus people coming from places like France and Australia, who are now blending dance with circus skills.

MOMIX is often called upon to do film, television and commercials, which is not surprising as their work is so visually striking.

Why did you choose this specific work, Opus Cactus?

Each of MOMIX’s pieces has a particular theme. Opus Cactus is all about the desert and the American Southwest, and I’m attracted to its look and colours. It has a certain aura. It’s fantastically elaborate – as much theatre as dance and circus.

I also like that Opus Cactus is a complete work in and of itself, like Botanica, which we presented here in 2011. And it’s one of MOMIX’s most technically developed works.

MOMIX first created Opus Cactus about 10 years ago, but we didn’t have the opportunity to present it then. When I found out they revived and put a fresh spin on it, I jumped at the opportunity to bring it to Ottawa.

Photo: Charles Azzopardi courtesy of the National Arts Centre.

What is your favourite part of Opus Cactus?

I find the firey colours and the images of the desert really beautiful. I love all the animals the dancers represent and how we see them slither across the stage. MOMIX is so good at that kind of illusion.

I’m especially excited to see Opus Cactus staged in our big hall (Southam Hall) with all that colour. It will be amazing to see their work at that scale.

What kind of audience do you think would enjoy Opus Cactus?

I think it’s for people who love a lot of dance, a lot of movement. It’s fun — there are some romantic moments and some humorous moments.

Opus Cactus is a beautiful experience that appeals to any age group. Even young kids will love it. It’s one of those very accessible works that allows anyone to experience the incredible joy of dance.

Opus Cactus is being performed at the National Arts Centre (1 Elgin St) at 8pm on March 12 and 13, 2018. Tickets cost $53–100 online and at the NAC Box Office. $15 Live Rush tickets are available same-day for anyone 13–29 years old.