Inspired by nature, dance company celebrates seasons

A magical mix of dancers and flowers and will burst across the historic Orpheum stage Saturday. Botanica, a show presented by the internationally renowned dance company Momix, celebrates the seasons with a mix of theatrics, illusion, light and costumes.

“Momix is a dance genre of its own,” said Wichita State University’s director of dance, Nick Johnson. “They present a wonderful theatrical experience – both illusionary and magical.”

Moses Pendleton, Momix’s founder and artistic director, grew up on a farm in New England, attended Dartmouth College and helped to found another premier dance company, Pilobolus. Although he was entrenched in the world of dance, the farm and its animals never left Pendleton. Eventually, he settled on another farm, this time in Connecticut, and instead of cows he raises flowers – marigolds, daffodils, lilacs and crocuses.

“The natural world nurtures me,” Pendleton said. “It’s my inspiration.”

Most days, Pendleton walks his property and documents the flowers and their movements. Through the use of pen, video and audio, this artist notices how a petal moves, a stem sways and a beam of light falls upon the bark of an elm tree.

“We pollinate an idea like a bee might pollinate the flower,” Pendleton said. “The power and the beauty of the flowers inspire me.”

This choreographer has designed a show that incorporates the beauty and intricacy of nature. He uses props, costumes, lights, music and the human body to demonstrate the power and interconnectedness of nature with human form.

“I want people to expect the unexpected,” Pendleton said. “I want them to feel the connection of the human to the plant and rock.”

Botanica’s ten dancers mold themselves into fantastical positions – swaying, stretching and gracefully maneuvering. Rocks are turned over, storms are faced and sunflowers grow.

“It’s very much visual poetry,” said Danielle McFall, a Wichita native and veteran Momix dancer for a decade. “The audience is mesmerized and saying ‘How do they do that?’ ”

McFall attended East High School, studied ballet at Ballet Wichita and graduated from New York University.

“The shows are quite intense and beautiful. It’s a nice, fluid, organic way of moving,” McFall said. “It takes everybody to make the show happen.”

As the dancers leap and twirl across the stage, they meld into nature and represent a marigold or an iris. Their bodies bend and sway while their feet move to the music.

“The music is really important to the work and the process,” McFall said. “The music and the piece mesh into one.”

As the stage turns from fall to winter and the snowflakes disappear, the sunflowers burst up and welcome onlookers to their garden.

Pendleton’s muses, flowers and dancers, incorporate a world of magic and mystery. He brings audience members into the fold of nature. Through the use of a tape recorder, he records his thoughts and uses dance to open up minds to the drama of nature. As if painted from a brush, the dancers encompass a tapestry that continuously changes.

“The show is sexy, surprising and funny,” Pendleton said. “I want people to walk out with a lot less gravity in their steps. These dancers take you on a fantasy.”