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28 octobre 2007

MOMIX opens NOBA season with a bang

Are they dancers acrobats, magicians or comics? Eight energetic performers erased such distinctions at Tulane University on Friday, as they twirled and twisted through a briskly paced revue of choreographic highlights from the repertoire of the MOMIX dance troupe.

"The Best of MOMIX" opened the 2007-08 season for the New Orleans Ballet Association, playing to a sold out house in the intimate setting of Dixon Hall. The troupe will reprise its performance tonight at 8.

Props and theatrical lighting played a key role throughout Friday's program of 11 short dances. In the delightful opener, "Sonoran: But Not Asleep" a huge hammock cradled dancer Danielle Arico as she swayed, dipped, flipped and dangled against a background of stars. Her movements were as dreamy as the music: a Swingle Singers arrangement of a slow movement from a Bach Harpsichord Concerto.

The evening's best prop was also the simplest. In "Orbit," Dancer Nicole Loizides used a hula-hoop to extend the range of her movements. With the ring blurring around her, she gyrated her hips and executed astounding high-speed spins that mixed the elegance of a ballerina's fouettes with the centrifugal athleticism of a figure skater. Her telegraphic arm gestures were equally crisp, stopping and starting with freeze-frame precision and never breaking the flow of the dance. Bathed in a golden glow and enclosed by the flickering corona of the hula hoop, Loizedes offered a 21st century update on the "Fire Dance" of Loie Fuller, a dance pioneer who wowed Paris in the Belle Epoque and launched the modern era of stage lighting.

Dancers Sara Kappraff and Timothy Melady treated each other as props in "Tuu," a vaguely ritualistic duet that incorporated yoga poses and extended them into propped and cantilevered postures that would give pause to many a yoga master. At times they moved in unison, mirroring each other's precise gestures. But the most spectacular moments came when Kappraff clung to her partner's back, and, with help from a well-placed backlight, the two dancers became one multi-armed creature.

With such strong dances at the start of the program, I expected a night of increasing wonders. It didn't work out that way, though it wasn't the fault of the hard working performers -- Todd Burnsed, Suzanne Lampl, Steven Ezra Marshall and Brian Simerson -- who joined their colleagues to execute a program that included more duets as well as works for three, four and seven dancers.

Lifted from the context of evening-length works, most of these short pieces were reduced to their basic function as ghee-whiz showstoppers. It was neat, for example, to see four guys link bodies to form a writhing reptile in "Gila Dance," but what did it mean in the end? The music also grew tiresome: spacey anthems drenched in feedback guitar loops and heavily processed "world music" with trance-inducing percussion.

Even the props, usually a strong suit with MOMIX, began to overwhelm the group's dancing. In "Spawning," for example, three female dancers balanced balloons on their noses, carried balloons as if they were the weight of the world, or rode them like ponies. Washed in blue light, and sedated by Peter Gabriel's yawping vocal soundtrack, these talented dancers seemed trapped in a pretentious synchronized swimming show.

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