Preview: Opus Cactus, Peacock Theatre, London

Surreal nights in the desert

Charlotte Cripps@charcripps
Monday 29 April 2013 02:12

"This is a surreal impression of the desert - not exactly a story ballet, but a series of images that take you on a trip into an imagined landscape," Pendleton says. His company is in London for the UK premiere.

The company - here emulating the moods and creatures of the desert, including giant saguaro cacti and rattlesnakes - are based in Connecticut in a dilapidated former hotel with studios and gardens where Pendleton is growing thousands of sunflowers, partly as research for a new piece based on that plant. "I take the environmental-psychological approach to creativity," he says. "The dancers help weed the garden to find their soul in the soil. The garden is an inspiration."

Raised on a dairy farm in Vermont, Pendleton has five dance shows that tour the world, including Opus Cactus, Passion, Baseball, Momix in Orbit and his latest, Luna Seas.

Pendleton had wanted to be a skier, but he broke his leg and took a dance class to recuperate. "I wanted to get back in shape to be a skier and one thing led to another. I began to choreograph - that is why much of the choreography is athletic. But nobody ever says to me, 'Break a leg.'"

Six years ago, Pendleton began his "vision quest" in the desert, originally to create a short piece for the Arizona Ballet. "I gathered images of the flora and fauna and first put together a short 20-minute piece."

In Opus Cactus, the dancers have some classical movements, as well as "having to run on all fours like an antelope". Pendleton uses lighting and props to portray the desert, with Native American sounds and music by Bach and Brian Eno. "You can make the dancers look quite like the desert plants and creatures by using lighting to sculpt the image of the bodies."

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