Momix | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Master illusionist Moses Pendleton, who founded Momix in 1981, is under no illusions himself: "We don't make things just for ourselves," he said in a recent interview with the New York Times. "Momix is a business, just like baseball, and our business is to get our product out to people." Accordingly the troupe--one of only a handful of for-profit U.S. dance companies--gives value for dollar, though oddly it capitalizes on otherworldliness. As Pendleton said in the same interview, "We give the audience a sense of...freedom from weight and gravity." The troupe's new evening-length piece, Opus Cactus, was inspired by a visit Pendleton made in 1999 to the American southwest to create a dance for Ballet Arizona. He expanded that 30-minute work into a collection of 21 images for his own company, evoking tumbleweeds, scorpions, snakes, cacti, and other, less recognizable entities. A man drapes himself over a giant rubber band and twirls around it, another "runs" on his knees across the floor, women whirl like dervishes with their skirts floating above their heads, people scoot across the floor like cockroaches (bellies on skateboards), hop like frogs, and form pulsating beasts with two backs. Whatever illusion can be achieved using ingenious props and costumes, wizard lighting, and athletic feats, Momix has done it. Inspiring awe rather than thought, the troupe is not for everyone: especially given the eclectic mix of music, the effect is not discursive or unified but fragmented--a collection of haikus, not a novel or essay. Still, Momix does what it does very well. It appears at two suburban venues, one this weekend and one the next. Center for Performing Arts at Governors State University, 1 University Pkwy. (Stuenkel and Governors Hwy.), University Park, 708-235-2222. Saturday, November 9, 8 PM. $33-$37. Then at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300. Saturday, November 16, 8 PM. $42.

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