In the post-modern, post-Pilobolus, anything-can-be-dance ranks, Momix holds special status. Not only does the 5-year-old company affirm the indomitable creativity that Pilobolus once represented but has had difficulty regaining, Momix refuses to deal in grandiose pretension or to grow predictable and safe.
Daniel Ezralow, Ashley Roland, Jamey Hampton, Morleigh Steinberg, Alan Boeding, their mentor Moses Pendleton and their occasional guest-colleagues represent a kind of collective, kinetic equivalent to the new generation of stand-up comedians. They deal in fanciful transformations of the familiar, in surreal satire and in irrepressible irreverence. Thus much of a Momix program comes off as antic improvisation. Though pieces occasionally fail, the level of achievement remains stratospheric.
On Saturday, a nine-part performance in the Wadsworth Theater showed nearly the full Momix range: from the luminous, Pilobolean imagery (and technology) of "Medusa" and "E.C.," through the playful movement-vaudeville of "DNA" and "Helter Skelter" to the just-plain-silly miscalculations of "Stark Naked" and "Conquistadores of the Useless."
The 30-minute collaborative suite "Mr. Seawater's Pool" began with film choreography for the eyelids and eyeballs and then encompassed spectacular dances and theatrical images related mostly to exotic folk cultures.
A man held a woman horizontally, across his body, and "tuned" her feet before "strumming" her like a guitar or let her "swim" freely in the air. Bird calls, animal screams and jabberings led to a neo-primitive, quasi-African mating competition and then to a solo in which crossed arms formed the illusion of a moving mouth, raised hands a pair of blinking eyes.
Later, 8-foot, armless women pretzeled their bodies around, over and sometimes under men wearing Southeast Asian sarongs and, soon after, two blind, "headless" men commandeered women's heads.
If nothing else matched these mercurial vignettes for sheer imagination, "Medusa" (a Quinn/Pendleton solo danced by Quinn under a translucent umbrella canopy), the familiar full-company shadow play "E.C." and the collaborative "Helter Skelter" (with faces and other body parts forming impressions in a length of stretch fabric) came close.
Boeding's terrific solo "Circle Walker" featured lyrical gymnastic feats performed on a freely rolling jungle gym: metal-sculpture and body-sculpture interacting on a changing spatial field.
Among the new duets, "DNA" held up the best, if only for unleashing Ezralow (abetted by Roland) in a high-energy, dynamic assault on show-dance cliches.
In the mime-duet "3 Sisters," Steinberg and Quinn isolated arm motion by wearing long white gloves and black dresses, but the focus on gesture, long hair and rocking chairs led to only a weak, anecdotal resolution.
Even more feeble: "Conquistadores of the Useless" in which Steinberg and Hampton wore sombreros, rolled across each other with controlled indolence and indulged in some uninventive rope-swinging. They also revived the lazy-Mexican stereotype needlessly and tastelessly.
Glimpses of a dancing Pendleton enlivened "Stark Naked," but this comic Stephen Geller film about Atlantis (and obsession) provided nothing significant that the stage pieces on Saturday didn't surpass.