The Washington Post

Moses Pendleton’s ‘Botanica’ is a beautiful nightmare at the Lisner Auditorium

MOMIX's ‘Botanica.’ (Max Pucciariello)

Choreographer Moses Pendleton must have some very strange dreams. Perhaps he wakes in the morning and thinks, “I know! A pas de deux for a gorgeous brunette and a triceratops!” How else do you explain the bizarre combinations of humanity, flora and fauna that populate “Botanica,” a 90-minute program of short works he’s created for his 33-year-old dance company, MOMIX?

Washington Performing Arts, CityDance and George Washington University co-presented Friday’s “Botanica” performance at the Lisner Auditorium. The show premiered in 2008 as a “best of” retrospective. That explains this hither-thither mix that featured the company’s ladies dressed as poufy-skirted poppies in one scene and the guys performing as neon jugglers in the next. Pendleton should have found ways to ease the flow between pieces; he has all sorts of special-effect bells and whistles at his disposal, and the stronger sections in the program would stand out more if he did.

Amid the beautiful mess of petals, fossils and feathers are two solos Pendleton created in 2007 for Russian ballerina Diana Vishneva’s touring show, “Beauty in Motion.” You’ve seen one piece, “Flow,” if you watched the closing ceremonies at the Sochi Olympics. Even the football commentators narrating for NBC were impressed when Vishneva donned a flowing skirt of streamers that extended out from her shoulders and rotated for minutes on end.

Amanda Hulen performed the “bead skirt dance” Friday and was a marvel to watch. A zillion precise demi-pliés are crucial to keeping the floating streamers level, and Vishneva does that better. Still, Hulen deservedly earned the most applause of the night. The audience then breathed a collective “Huh?” when a projection of a giant frog appeared on the backdrop and a male dancer emerged dressed as a giant snail.

The second Vishneva piece, “Mirror,” featured dancer Simona Ditucci reclining on a reflective panel, tilted at a 45-degree angle so that, like Narcissus, she appeared obsessed with herself. Extending an arm and leg, Ditucci was the stunning feminine equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. When, minutes later, she was astride a triceratops puppet that eventually would eat her alive, the choreography took a turn for the Cro-Magnon. What a nightmare. Yikes. MOMIX is best when Pendleton instead creates an elegant renaissance of illusionary art and dance.

Ritzel is a freelance writer.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read
Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
How to make Sean Brock's 'Heritage' cornbread
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
The signature dish of Charleston, S.C.
Play Videos
Why seasonal allergies make you miserable
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
What you need to know about filming the police
Play Videos
The Post taste tests Pizza Hut's new hot dog pizza
5 tips for using your thermostat
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
The signature drink of New Orleans

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.