MOMIX blends many styles for dance theater performance in Santa Rosa

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If You Go

What: Rodney Strong Vineyards Dance Series presents MOMIX

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, followed by a post-show discussion

Where: Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa

Admission: $20-$49

Information: 707-546-3600, lutherburbankcenter.org

The name of the MOMIX dance company certainly makes sense, because founder and choreographer Moses Pendleton mixes a variety of styles and visual effects into his work, but it so happens that’s also the name of a high-protein supplement he fed to calves on the Vermont farm where he grew up.

It’s that mix of the esoteric and the earthy, the serious and the sassy, that makes MOMIX so fascinating, and a bit hard to define, but a visit to the company’s performance Thursday, Oct. 17, at Santa Rosa’s Luther Burbank Center for the Arts should make everything quite clear.

The ensemble — based in Washington, Conn. — is touring California this month with “Viva Momix,” a program of short sections taken from its longer works, created to mark the company’s 35th anniversary several years ago. The two-act show draws excerpts from the company’s full repertoire, including “Botanica,” “Alchemia,” “Remix,” “Opus Cactus” and “Lunar Sea.”

“It’s our compilation album,” Pendleton, 70, said by phone from his Connecticut home, borrowing a term from pop music. “It’s a cross-section of old and new pieces. You’ll see how we move.”

In November, the company will takes its newest full-length piece, “Alice” — based on “Alice in Wonderland” — on a tour through Italy, where MOMIX made a memorable debut in Milan in 1980.

“We been performing in Italy for almost 40 years,” Pendleton said. “We’re well-known there.”

Before MOMIX, the choreographer worked with Pilobolus, a dance collective that emphasized using the dancers’ bodies to create forms and shapes onstage, rather than going through a series of steps.

Founded by a group of college students at Dartmouth in 1971, the Pilobolus troupe got an early boost from an unexpected source, appearing as an opening act free-form rock music composer and Mothers of Invention bandleader Frank Zappa, who dubbed the dancers’ work “theater of the far out.”

After a decade with Pilobolus, Pendleton sought a somewhat different concept for his own company, Momix. He put additional emphasis on colorful props and costumes, special visual effects and evocative vignettes.

“It’s surreal Vaudeville,” Pendleton said. “You’ll never know what to expect. We’re not telling stories, but you’ll take the picture away with you.”

MOMIX is headquartered in a converted horse barn just across the road from Pendleton’s Victorian home in Connecticut’s Litchfield, Hills.

“Sometimes we call it barn dancing,” Pendleton quipped. But don’t expect a guy in bib overalls and straw hat calling out square-dance steps. “This is physical, visual theater,” he said, “and it’s highly athletic.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

If You Go

What: Rodney Strong Vineyards Dance Series presents MOMIX

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, followed by a post-show discussion

Where: Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa

Admission: $20-$49

Information: 707-546-3600, lutherburbankcenter.org

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