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Mesmerized by Momix 

by BLAIR TELLERS & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & tart with a handful of ballerinas. Throw in some professional skiers for a sporty edge. Add a rock climber for a touch of pizzazz. Sprinkle a generous portion of artistic minds and creative thinkers. Drizzle copiously with skilled puppeteers. Finish off with Irish step dancers for good measure, and make sure you have a director who was appointed a Guggenheim Fellow and did a music video for Prince.





Enter Momix, an internationally recognized company of dancer-illusionists known for its novel m & eacute;lange of innovative movement, artistic use of light, incredible props and ethereal images. Making a stop on Monday at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox, Momix will be performing selected favorites from the group's 26 years of work.





Veteran Momix performer Nicole Loizides describes "Best of Momix" as a colorful compilation of different vignettes from shows spanning nearly three decades of exquisite talent. "We've picked a lot of the crowd-pleasers and are aiming for a large family base," she says. "It's very visual and includes some of the larger structures and props that we dance on."





Imagination offers no end to possibility, and Momix thrives on this concept while gracefully juxtaposing the bizarre and beautiful. In the world of artistic director Moses Pendleton, there is no medium in which he cannot dabble, no object, landscape or creature to be labeled "off limits." Gravity is something to be experimented with, and counterbalance is a game.





Baseball bats, hula hoops, merry-go-rounds, skis, vaulting poles and giant rubber balls like the ones on exercise infomercials are just a few of the mundane items Pendleton draws inspiration from. You could probably give the man an old tire and he'd find something intriguing to do with it.





"Momix is never looking for just one technique," says Loizides, whose favorite prop is a 6-and-a-half-foot hula hoop. "We've all come from different genres of dance and art. At the time when I joined, there was a world champion rock climber."





Momix wallows in variety, which makes categorizing the troupe a nearly impossible task. While the term "dancer-illusionist" might conjure images of Criss Angel or David Blaine in a tutu, Momix is far from campy or gaudy. Really, the phrase is specific to Momix, placing them in a class all their own.





"Many times we have reviewers who say, 'Well, it's not really a modern troupe, or a ballet troupe or a circus troupe. We don't know what to call them!'" says Loizides. "Such a great part of our show is the lighting effect. We've pushed off into our own genre. When we're in rehearsal, for example, it's more about making the prop dance rather than yourself. It adds to the illusionist or surreal quality of what we do."





And don't make the mistake of confusing Momix with Cirque du Soleil.





"Momix is more dance-oriented," says Loizides. "You're able to see each performer separately out of the whole. There are never three who are stuck doing core pieces. Momix is made for a stage, not an arena. It's very intimate, so you're enveloped by our little world. It's more cozy."





The result is highly captivating trip though celestial dreamscapes where environments hazily morph into places like the sea, outer space, a desert or even a baseball field. Eventually, it becomes anyone's guess whether the onstage images are silhouettes, puppets, actual human beings or merely figments created by shadow. Neon-blue alien figures seemingly float through the air, curling into fetal positions before elongating themselves and undulating like mermaids. An inanimate, colossal structure of metal framework becomes a rocking toy for a pair of acrobats. Ballerinas dance in unison while enormous paper fans slowly open and close behind their heads. A human Gila monster sways across the stage.





Momix's artistic director is no less talented than his performers. Like his biblical namesake, Moses Pendleton has not disappointed his people.





To label him an overachiever is a drastic understatement. The Dartmouth alum has choreographed the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, revived a Dadaist Ballet, made a 3-D Imax film, founded the Pilobolus Dance Theater, contributed to countless theatrical productions and is a recipient of the American Choreography Award for his contributions to dance in film and television.





"His process is very fast and hard to catch up with at times," says Loizides of Pendleton. "We do have a lot of say and collaborate with each other, though. You're allowed to personalize your character."





An amazing experience for Loizides was performing under a full moon at the Acropolis in Greece. "The Parthenon was lit up on the hill, and it started to rain," she recalls. "Umbrellas were scattered like Skittles in an audience of 5,000. A few of us went out onstage to help the cleaning ladies clean off the water, and one of them started crying because she had never seen that happen before."





OK, so the Acropolis is a tough place to top. But at least the Fox has a roof.





Momix contorts itself for your viewing pleasure on Monday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 pm at the Fox. Tickets: $17-$32. Visit www.foxtheaterspokane.com or call 624-1200.

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