While reading the biographies for the dancers in Botanica
, one can’t help but imagine some of them spent years training in classical ballet only to be cut from the company. Maybe the phone call to their parents went something like, “You know what, Mom, forget it! I’m just going to spend my dance career riding giant Triceratops puppets.”
There is indeed a giant Triceratops puppet in MOMIX’s latest production, presented by White Bird
. It’s a skeleton triceratops, no less, which ends up trampling and gobbling up its female rider. Botanica
, which carries the audience through the four seasons in the natural world, is the kind of show in which the props and costumes are more impressive than the actual dancing. Not to discount the dancing, but it’s hard to compete with the likes of Michael Curry, who did puppet design for Botanica
(as well as for Broadway’s production of The Lion King
The dancing in Botanica isn’t the most technically challenging; I dare to argue that any trim and willing individual could probably pull off 90 percent of it. But MOMIX, a 33-year-old Connecticut-based company, is more about illusion. Much of the dancing is lyrical movement to accompany the multimedia buffet laid before the audience by the show’s designers. In one of the springtime scenes, dancers gallop out in pairs as centaurs, one’s head pressed against the other’s butt. Shirtless, they gallivant about to Peter Gabriel’s “The Heat,” kicking their hooves and puffing their chests. From the brown velour of the costumes to the performers’ commitment to their characters, the illusion is just believable enough to be enchanting.
At times the dancers do display real feats of skill and athleticism. A female dancer in one piece spins a crown dangling 5-foot-long beads nonstop for about four minutes. She does much of it without spotting, leaving you fearing she’ll stumble from dizziness and cause the whirring strands to lash across her face. The dancers also have the strength to support the show’s towering props, including a banner-like screen that scraped the top of the Newmark stage—and was held by a single man. In general, the dancers in the show have bodies like Olympic athletes, and the lighting and costumes make the show as much about the art of the human form as about dance.
Through dancing or whatever means, Botanica is stimulating. At different times exciting, sexy and funny, it could entertain a child, your grandmother or your drug dealer. It might not be a dancer’s show, but Botanica is a crowd-pleaser.
SEE IT: MOMIX is at the Newmark Theater, 1111 SW Broadway, 248-4335. 7:30 pm Thursday-Friday, Feb. 28-March 1; 2 and 7:30 pm Saturday, March 2. $26-$64. whitebird.org/momix