Review: Momix's 'Alice' Is a Rabbit Hole (or 22) Too Far

Dance critic Edwin Denby once wrote, “Everyday life is wonderfully full of things to see. This observation came to mind on Thursday dur...


Dance critic Edwin Denby once wrote, “Everyday life is wonderfully full of things to see. This observation came to mind on Thursday during Momix’s “Alice,” a mundane and busy 85-minute show now at the Joyce Theatre. Not that anything particularly wonderful is happening; rather the opposite. At this point in the show, the idea of ​​just going out into the city at night — to watch the traffic, the sunset, or the people on the streets — was more appealing than any fantasy portrayed on stage.

Known for its illusionistic extravaganzas, Momix, which was founded 42 years ago by choreographer Moses Pendleton, drew inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ for its latest. Conceived and directed by Pendleton, the work unfolds through short vignettes focusing on props and costumes – 22 of them – loosely derived from Carroll’s world. Aside from the recurring appearances of multiple Alices, who tend to walk in and out looking lost, little holds these scenes together; they read like interchangeable parts. If you’re looking for serious engagement with storytelling or storytelling, this isn’t the rabbit hole for you.

The openness is about as good as it gets, with a simple elegance that, in retrospect, is refreshing. Against a projection of a river and green landscape, Jade Primicias (the first of the Alices) sits on a ladder suspended horizontally, reading a book bearing her character’s name. The ladder begins to spin (helped by another performer), as her feet brush the ground in a slight bouncing motion. Thus begins his descent.

From there, it’s an onslaught of attempts at psychedelic imagery, often landing closer to the mundane or vaguely offensive. Among many creatures and caricatures, we come across a herd of wild rabbits, occasion of the most athletic dances of the night (many jumping apart); a trio of jovial mad hatters in garter belts; and a plethora of queens, representing all playing card suits. Acrobatic tricks and lifts punctuate the orderly choreography, sometimes involving objects like exercise balls or rolling platforms. Living costumes deform and extend the body.

Projected backdrops, reminiscent of low resolution screensavers, attempt to transport us. We are at the beach; now we are in the jungle. The high-energy soundtrack, an overcrowded, traveling playlist, seems intent on evoking an unspecific sense of “exoticism.” A scene called “The Tweedles”, which combines Bollywood music with fluttering white baby masks, is meant to be fun; he presents himself as clumsy and careless. The most truly trippy scene is the shadow “Cracked Mirrors”, in which reflective props and spider-like lighting work together, with the dancers, to disorient themselves.

“Alice” is physically demanding, and the small troupe of eight dancers deserve credit for carrying their heavy load, which, of course, can be not only arduous but dangerous. On Thursday, during a scene in which masked figures walk around with large round protuberances on their backs – their faces and bodies encased in elastic material – a dancer fell off the stage, and not on purpose. The audience gasped; it looked painful. The fallen entertainer made it backstage and luckily, a company publicist said, he was unharmed.

Yet the incident revealed the dangers of this type of work and underscored a nagging question: when wonder can come to us in so many forms, is “Alice” really worth the risk?

Alice

Through July 24 at the Joyce Theatre; joyce.org.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Review: Momix's 'Alice' Is a Rabbit Hole (or 22) Too Far
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