MOMIX – “Passion” at the Joyce

An image from MOMIX’s Passion

The Joyce Theater’s description of MOMIX’s Passion was intriguing, while the reviews over the past few years have ranged from calling the piece “sensationalist trash” to a “seamless whole” to “short on substance“. In spite of reading several reviews (usually not a good idea before attending a performance), I tried to approach the piece on Sunday evening with a clear mind.

Passion began with the projection of a large tree on a scrim at the front of the stage. It immediately morphed into a mask made of stone, and continued to change throughout the piece, with the images ranging from a close-up of the brain, to a portrait of a Renaissance woman, to flowers in a field. The ongoing changes grew tiresome, and if Moses Pendleton, the artistic director and founder of MOMIX, wanted the images to add to the profundity of Passion, I don’t think he was successful.

Similarly, the twenty-one sections of Passion never amounted to anything or gained momentum. Three women scurried across the stage while maneuvering their way through large sheets of white tulle; a man hung from a rope with his body in a T-shape, looking like a Christ figure, and then twisted around to hang upside-down; two men played a sort of leap-frog game as they jumped over each other; a woman spun in circles while vigorously waving a ribbon through the air. Each section remained monotonous and went on a little too long, and it seemed like Pendleton relied too heavily on the images projected on the scrim as well as the lighting design to add interest to the piece. Unfortunately, they did not. In fact, I question whether Passion is really even dance. The movement lacked lyricism and rhythm, and although the dancers are clearly skilled, athletic performers, I did not sense any unity among the choreography, music, images, costumes, and myriad props. These are all okay alone, but to be effective, they have to cohere to create an organic whole.

An image from Passion

Passion was certainly appropriately titled, as it was set to Peter Gabriel’s score for the film The Last Temptation of Christ. Beyond that, the piece attempted to convey strong emotions, and the choreography was at times erotic, with the dancers performing intimate partner work while nude. At other times, there were obvious references to Christ and religion.

Pendleton is imaginative and creates images that are refreshing – at least for a few moments – to the eye. But they alone were not enough to hold my interest for seventy-five minutes. The “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” from the audience led me to believe that Passion was entertaining and enjoyable for many people. Perhaps the immediate “wow” factor was enough for them, but I need more depth and substance to be satisfied.

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