The arid grace of the Arizona Desert.jpg

The arid grace of the Arizona Desert

Reviewed by: CHRIS GRAEME

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TUMBLEWEEDS roll across a dark and windswept landscape, strange red and yellow lizards crawl across the sun-drenched rocks, and strange birds of prey loom menacingly over writhing, tortured forms in the sand.

But this is no David Attenborough BBC survival special. This is a unique and highly creative, if not surreal, artistic interpretation of Darwinian survival set against the parched, oven-baked backdrop of the Arizona Desert.

The muscular beauty of the human body twisted, contorted and moulded into a myriad of forms from nature is cleverly interwoven with inspiring choreography and, at times, disturbing and jarring music.

Opus Cactus is the latest artistic triumph from Moses Pendleton’s Momix dance troupe whose dancers ingeniously show that what appears to be isn’t always what is.

Pendleton, working in close collaboration with the dancers of his company Momix and the Arizona Ballet, has, together with an inventive team of designers whose imagination knows no limits, come up with a startling tableau of choreographies echoing the fantastic flora and fauna that survives, against the odds, in this dry, arid and inhospitably unforgiving landscape.

Opus Cactus opened at the Lisbon Casino on Tuesday night (February 26) to a packed and appreciative audience whose eyes were glued to this bizarre natural history ballet for two hours.

Every muscle is used, every ligament twisted, every sinew pushed to the limits of physical endurance and beyond, to translate the ideas of agony, hunger, deprivation, danger, sensuality, competition, survival and predation that exists in the dog-eat-dog bleak and lonely natural world, nevertheless teaming with tortured life.

But this is not just ballet, clever lighting and eerie music, for Pendleton and his team use the whole gamut of the arts in his creation genius – gymnastics, acrobatics, body surfing, pole vaulting, aerial feats and even puppetry – to conjure up the harsh spirit of the desert.

Long after the show, the mind is filled with disturbing and, at the same time, beautifully haunting visions of slithering sliding snakes made up of twisted human forms, giant cactuses complete with spines composed of dancers balanced precariously one atop the other against the orange glow of an Arizona sunset.

Moses Pendleton, Momix artistic director and choreographer, has for 30 years been one of America’s most innovative and widely performed choreographers and directors, one of the founding fathers of the ground-breaking Pilobolus Dance Theatre formed in 1971.

Opus Cactus is on show until March 16. For more information and to reserve tickets, costing 30 and 35 euros, please call 707 234 234.

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