American company Momix has a distinctive acrobatic style, dedicated to creating illusions with human bodies and stage wizardry. In Lunar Sea, the choreographer, Moses Pendleton, pushes the physical magic further than ever through a single technical device: UV light on black-and-white costumes, which makes the black all but disappear.
With legs lit, a couple morph into a rolling octopus; with arms lit, the dancers become a flock of gulls
The curtain rises to reveal another, translucent curtain behind which is a row of white figures. As they turn towards us, it seems as if half their bodies are missing. But this is just the start. Lifted by invisible partners, women in white skim and soar over the stage as if leaping across the moon. Dancers swim in mid-air like dolphins and slip sideways like seahorses. With legs lit, a couple morph into a rolling octopus; with arms lit, the dancers become a flock of gulls.
The enchantment keeps coming and then fading. Pendleton’s imagination is fired more by imagery than by action, so although each episode is striking, none develop into anything more sustained. This is fine if you are lulled by the trancey music, but otherwise you start wondering why the show, so interested in the illusion of flight, does not itself quite take off.
One problem is the front curtain. It may be necessary as a veil, but Pendleton projects all sorts of intrusive images onto it – psychedelic sunflowers, flowing seas – that really should be more subliminal. Another is the lack of dramatic substance. A wheeling ghost is fleetingly spooky, but disappears too soon. Only towards the end does an element of theatre infuse the spectacle, as a cluster of pipes morph first into tulips and then into a pair of sinister spiders, one of which gobbles up the other – a fine merger of illusion, suspense and comedy.