This week, The Joyce celebrates what would have been Alwin Nikolais’ 100th birthday. A true dance luminary whose repertoire spanned over sixty years, Alwin Nikolais created inventive and innovative works that have had a lasting effect on the history of modern dance. In the weeks proceeding the Nikolais Centennial engagement, MOMIX takes The Joyce stage demonstrating its own unique twists on some of the classic techniques that Nikolas made famous.
Nikolais was particularly interested in a theory he called “decentralization,” which proposed that by depersonalizing dancers they could be liberated from their own forms. Through the use of costumes sound collage and projected images–onto both the stage and the dancers–Nikolais shifted the focus away from any one individual dancer, and concentrated instead on the overall effect of the production. In an episode of PBS’ “American Masters” series focusing on Nikolais, it was said that the artist would often present his dancers in constrictive spaces and costumes with complicated sound and sets, “designed to confuse the process of dance.”
MOMIX, under the direction of Moses Pendleton, has been celebrated for its ability to conjure up a world of surrealistic images using props, light, shadow, humor and the human body. The spell-binding company has used elements of Nikolas’s work as a jumping off point to create its own unpredictable and otherworldly works for a new generation.
As an example of one of the stunning techniques that Nikolais pioneered that are still used today to great effect, consider this video containing footage of Nikolas’ Crucible (1985) and the picture below of MOMIX’s Botanica: