Sometimes Santa Fe goes South! To Albuquerque, that is. In the past, when the Pilobolus troupe has had tour dates in the Southwest, our beautifully-restored Lensic has generally been one of their stops. This year, not. I don’t know whether the Lensic was booked or whether this dance company needed the larger venue for larger revenue (completely understandable, if so), but either way, they had their one Northern New Mexico stop at Popejoy Hall on the University of New Mexico campus. Many Santa Feans (I mean me) are notorious for their reluctance to take that quick drive to Albuquerque, but sometimes, ya just gotta go! The Albuquerque venue actually suited us better this time, as our grandson has applied to UNM, and we wanted to give him a sense of the cultural life on campus. We had taken him to see Momix, the Pilobolus off-shoot, some years ago, so we knew this would be a good choice.
What we didn’t realize, however, was that the new semester had not started, so our plan to eat dinner in the Student Union and scope out the college scene before the performance was a bust. That’s where the Frontier came to the rescue. It is hardly haute-cuisine, but it is an Albuquerque institution, and being right across the street from Popejoy, it was a quick save. I had not eaten there is a very long time, so it also gave me a chance to confirm that if someone flies into Albuquerque late, it’s an okay choice, since it’s pretty hard to ruin eggs. And if you get a side of green chile for the hash browns, it’s the real deal – you can still see the roasting marks. Grandson, newly vegetarian, had the breakfast burrito and was well satisfied. When in doubt, all-day breakfast is a blessing.
The production was striking, like all the performances I have seen by this unique troupe of hard-working dancer/athletes. Talk about core strength, they had it going! The first piece, Red Line (2009), was highly stylized, full of aggressive precise movements and thumping music, with costumes that made it hard to distinguish male from female dancers, especially since we were seated up in the nose-bleed section (that’s what you get when you wait too long to order tickets). The second, Rushes (2007), was a decided contrast, slower-paced and thought-provoking, with inventive participation by a group of chairs, interesting especially because I had seen another unusual use of chairs on a performance by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in the fall. After an intermission that allowed us to mill around and check out the Albuquerque dance aficionados, we were treated to a moving duet from 2009 that was not yet titled, and an older piece, Day Two (1980) choreographed by one of the company’s co-founders, Moses Pendleton, who subsequently founded Momix. It struck me that I had first encountered Pilobolus very early on in Santa Fe, when they began touring; that’s one of the things that is so great about our town, and indeed our state, the well-deserved reputation as a Mecca for artists of all stripes.
And of course, the drive really is the easiest of commutes – I don’t know why I don’t do it more often, especially since I do appreciate the flavor that the university imparts to the city. Popejoy frequently hosts artists that do not appear in Santa Fe, and in just the next few weeks, there’s An Evening with Groucho, Swan Lake (with Russian ballerinas) and Riverdance (on its final tour). None of these performances are happening in our fair city this time around. Most of the month of January also offers a variety of theatrical events in Albuquqerque, as part of the 10th annual Revolutions International Theatre Festival, organized by the Tricklock Company.
For us Santa Fesinos, well, I guess we just “gotta git outta Dodge” now and then. And for travelers to Santa Fe who find themselves in Albuquerque for a night before or after, an evening at Popejoy can definitely be an enjoyable part of the itinerary. This will be a whole lot easier in the fall of this year, when the new Hotel Parq Central opens its historic doors, just a short distance from UNM and all that the university has to offer.