Watching MOMIX’s Botanica is like travelling to another world—one where the lines between reality and illusion are blurred. The dancers and their costumes create a performance that must be recognized as the sum of its parts. In this way, Botanica uses the organic quality of dance for a completely unique representation of nature.

Max Pucciariello
Max Pucciariello

Conceived and directed by Moses Pendleton, Botanica is, in the most literal sense, a one act production with 23 distinct musical sections (music editing by Joshua Christopher, Andrew Hansen, and Brian Simerson). Each section, or vignette, is also set apart by the costuming (Phoebe Katzin), lighting (Joshua Starbuck and Pendleton) and video projections (edited by Woodrow F. Dick, III), props (Pedro Silva), and even puppets (Michael Curry). The scenes transition through these different settings and atmospheres, taking the audience on a dream-like journey through the four seasons.

The first few sections obscure the dancers’ bodies, making the stage feel like a foreign landscape. At first, rippling white fabric covers the ground like rushing water. Bodies press up from underneath the fabric so that only their outlines are revealed before they fall back to the ground as if swept away by the current. In another segment the stage is pitch black except for portions of the dancers bodies. Only their forearms and lower legs are visible, glowing neon green. These disembodied limbs intertwine, changing patterns like a kaleidoscope. They snake through the air like serpents before bursting apart, arms flapping like birds wings.

An outstanding solo occurs shortly thereafter with one woman dancing on a mirrored platform. She stays close to the floor for the majority of the piece in a nude costume so that her body and reflection appear to be one eight limbed creature at times. At others she lifts herself away from the floor and it seems as though she is partnering herself. The effect is beautiful if also a bit alien and narcissistic.

Botanica takes a brief turn for the grotesque with some shocking props. An enormous triceratops puppet shares a playful duet with a dancer before eating her whole. The woman actually disappears into the puppet’s ribs. In another far more abstract section, a line of dancers in silhouette lunge across the stage. Their arms curve overhead, encased in tubing to form a continuous line from one shoulder and down to the other. Seeing the human form so distorted and yet moving with such grace is odd and almost disturbing.

It is certainly more comfortable to watch familiar shapes—for example, dancers representing blossoms and insects. A group of women in orange ruffled skirts spin and sway like a bed of flowers. After that, a swarm of men dart on stage like insects, their movements sharp and jittery like wasps in flight. But no matter how concrete or abstract the idea that inspired each section, MOMIX is fully committed to their characters and bringing each concept to life.