Colorful adjectives begin to swirl whenever dance writers start trying to describe "Botanica," the full-length piece that Connecticut-based Momix is bringing to Centennial Hall on Sunday.

The famously fanciful imagery created by this dance company that is more than a dance company is often compared to the Las Vegas high wire creations of Cirque du Soleil.

"I would say they are more cirque … and we are more soleil," joked Moses Pendleton, the founding artistic director of Momix. "But it is nice we're in a kind of connected surrealistic world together."

Back in 1971, Pendleton was a co-founder of the defiantly imaginative Pilobolus Dance Theatre, then left in 1981 to start Momix - and never added dance to its official name.

"We aren't strictly a dance company," explained Pendleton, who is also the chief choreographer. "We include physical theater, imaginative props, large puppets, various stage effects, many elements.

"I do work in collaboration with the dancers and designers to create imagery that is dreamlike, sensual, poetic and - hopefully - stimulating intellectually."

From the beginning, Momix has been a favorite of Tucson's dance community. Pendleton was commissioned by Ballet Arizona in 1999 to create a specifically Southwestern piece for Momix. He titled it "Opus Cactus."

"At first the piece was going to be about sunflowers, but then I went out to Arizona and saw the magnificent saguaro. You can say I was more than charmed by Tucson's cacti."

Nature has always been a seductive force for Pendleton. He was born and raised on a dairy farm in Northern Vermont and now cultivates a large garden of sunflowers and marigolds around his Connecticut home.

The need to express through Momix this connection with nature is his "passion, seeing how the plant world is connected to the human world."

"Botanica," which premiered in January 2009, is a full 90-minute exploration of the magic in that garden through all four seasons. Having artistic ideas that travel from an ordinary flower bed to an extraordinary performance of striking imagery is not unusual for Pendleton.

"Every one of the images we present in every show is developed over a long period of time," he began. "It takes a lot of trying different things, a lot of mixing, boiling down, editing. …

"Maybe over the years we have become more efficient, but really, you never know what will work until you put it on stage."


• What: Momix, a concert of dance and illusion.

• Presented by: UApresents.

• When: 7 p.m. Sunday.

• Where: Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd.

• Cost: $25-$45, with discounts available

• Reservations, information:621-3341,

Chuck Graham is a Tucson-based freelance writer. Contact him at