Momix

Moses Pendleton throws a lot of pitches in "Baseball," but they all miss the strike zone. Performed Saturday at the Rouse Theatre as part of the Columbia Festival of the Arts, "Baseball" derives little inspiration from the national pastime. Pendleton's company, Momix, first takes a comedic approach to the game, then an overly reverent one.

Both miss the heart of baseball.

Humor is always difficult to dance. "Baseball" is funniest in its depiction of cavemen discovering the game. Otherwise, dancers dressed in campy black-and-white-striped Lycra play with bats and balls. The men represent the players, and the women are just cute, sexy decorations. Their roles climax in a gratuitous duet where women straddle the men who pass bats between their legs. What does that have to do with baseball?

Momix is a derivative of the popular Pilobolus, of which Pendleton was a founding member. In "Baseball," he abandons gymnastic partnering, focusing instead on props. Dancers propel themselves through split leaps using bats as if they were canes. A few ingenious devices provide brief amusement, particularly a dancer dressed as a large foam baseball and a scene where a dancer inflates a white sphere on his head by blowing through his nose.

"Baseball's" second half tries to strike a reverent tone, especially after a radio announcement of Mickey Mantle's death. A dancer hangs in the air, his bat and ball slowly floating away. The moment is so melodramatic that it makes fun of America's fascination with athletes. Anyone interested in baseball would be better off at Camden Yards.

-- Clare Croft

Silk Road Dance Company

Ancient Egypt came alive Saturday night at Dance Place with the Silk Road Dance Company performing Laurel Victoria Gray's evening-length "Egypta: Myth, Magic & Mystery." With the passion of an educator and avid storyteller, Gray, along with her 23-member troupe, proceeded to unfold the myths and history of the ancient world.

The work is a "reconstruction of what they might have danced like," said Gray, who drew her ideas from ancient Egyptian art as well as current Middle Eastern dance styles.

Originally a tribute to the early 20th-century modern dancer Ruth St. Denis, it evoked the dramatic gestures of silent films. A colorful whirl of motion connected a series of recognizable Egyptian tableaux (at times perhaps too recognizable, verging on cliche). A deep voice coming from a smoky netherworld narrated the historical dance-drama replete with striking and sumptuous images: A quartet of glistening aqua nymphs emerged from the Nile, depicted by billowing silk. Thoth, the alligator god and creator of life, made his way across the floor swishing a magnificent gold-and-blue brocade tail. The costumes, designed by Gray and Elizabeth Anna Groth, were scene stealers.

Mythic dances were interspersed with ones depicting the everyday lives of people in the kingdom. Women shown harvesting in a ritual dance had a distinctly African flavor, and linen weavers, working at the loom with playful gestures, framed the myths nicely.

The evening was a visual treat of whirling, glittery costumes, fluid movement narratives, rich, exotic music and a dance troupe that was clearly having fun.

-- Barbara Allen

Moses Pendleton's Momix troupe performs "Baseball" at the Columbia Festival of the Arts.