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MOMIX Brings the Beauty and Wonder of the Sonoran Desert In Opus Cactus

We imagine the audition process to become a dancer for MOMIX goes something a little like this: How do you feel about slithering across the stage costumed as a gila monster? What about setting your feet on fire? Are you at all intimidated at the prospect of performing in the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony with Russian prima ballerina Diana Viktorovna Vishneva in front of more than 30 million viewers?

Sprung from the larger than life imagination of Artistic Director Moses Pendleton, MOMIX productions are more visual physical theater than dance. Though for the company's current show Opus Cactus, making its Houston premiere and kicking off the 2018-2019 season for Society for the Performing Arts, its roots are decidedly entrenched in ballet.

Opus Cactus got its start as a 25-minute commission for Ballet Arizona in Phoenix. Pendleton remained interested in the subject and decided to make the Sonoran Desert the next chapter in his ongoing journey of using the human body to investigate non-human worlds.

"I’ve always been very inspired by nature; it does nurture me. This particular show the nature is the Sonoran Desert: cacti, flora, fauna, the light. I was physically literally mesmerized by the power of the desert and that nature and that was the influence in terms of wanting to do something in a dance theater form," says Pendleton.

There's no plot, per se, just the beauty and wonder of the desert brought to life on stage through props, costume changes, scene shifts, creative lighting and more than a few surprises.

And yes, the dancer who said, "Sure, why not?" to the idea of lighting his feet on fire will be in this production.

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"There’s one piece that a man actually lights his feet on fire; he has the special shoe and then he lights himself with his own firelight which is quite marvelous and I guess appropriate for the desert if you’ve got hot foot," says Pendleton. "Quite funny and strange; using the flame from your burning feet to light your body, flashing in and out of the light. Quite dynamic.

"Expect the unexpected," says Pendleton. "It’s a kid’s show for adults and an adult show for kids. It's certainly full of fantasy and physicality and interpreted on many different levels.

"You don’t have to have read The Tempest to know what’s going on. Hopefully you let MOMIX take you on a little trip to a magical botanical fantasy world and welcome the surprises that come at you."

Society for the Performing Arts' presentation of MOMIX, Opus Cactus is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. September 14, Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 713-227-4772, spahouston.org, $35 to $125.

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