The magic of movement

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Principal dancer with MOMIX on pool noodles, taping reality TV and fostering wellness


  • Sarah Nachbauer trained in classical ballet and modern dance. Photo: Jennifer Goodman.

  • Sarah Nachbauer, principal dancer with MOMIX. Photo: Charles Azzopardi

As a college student in Boston, Sarah Nachbauer took a trip to New York City with friends who were going on a dance audition. A junior at the time, she thought, “I’ll go; I’ll get cut and I’ll go shopping in New York.”

As fate would have it, she never had her shopping spree, because she kept getting called back. And upon graduation in 2003, she had a place with MOMIX, a company whose members are referred to as dance illusionists. When asked to describe their unique style, Nachbauer noted body sculpture and unique partnering as setting them apart. “We form our bodies together to create another image and then dance inside of that image,” she explained. They also employ the use of props on stage, giving life to them through their movement. And as for her fellow dancers, Nachbauer likens them to a familial unit. There seems to be no better testament to that than the fact that she is engaged to one of them. MOMIX’s 2017 season at the Joyce Theater runs through July 16.

What attracted you to modern dance?

I’m trained in classical ballet and modern dance. And with modern dance, there’s just a little bit more freedom, and more of a chance to explore yourself as a mover as opposed to fitting a mold of what a character has become. You know, like when you do the Sugar Plum Fairy or something, it’s kind of set and has its own character already involved. Where in modern dance, I think you’re given a little bit more freedom to explore yourself first to the movement. But, that’s happening a lot in ballet companies as well because there’s a lot more crossover. There’s a lot more contemporary ballet that’s happening. I think dance now is becoming a melting pot, where you kind of have to be able to rely on multiple different facets of it in order to create movement, the image and story. I feel like it’s joining forces in that sense.

Can you give us an example of a prop that would be used and the story behind it?

So in this show, “Opus Cactus,” at the Joyce, we use a very simple thing that everyone will see this summer, which is a pool noodle. And we have covered them and manipulate them to be winding snakes around women who are snake charming them .... Without giving too much away, there’s still a lot of dance magic that’s happening. We can’t give all the secrets away. [Laughs]

Are you and your fellow company members all friends outside of work?

We’re friends for sure. I think we’re more of a family in that respect that we’re working together, living together, traveling together, and having dinner together. So I think you’re even more intimate with each other than you are with some of your friends. I think you do become like this family unit and people start to represent what that is in the company. You always have your company mama and the little sister. You always have these little family dynamics. And there are times where something might happen and there might be an argument or you might not get along. And there are times, usually right after that, you make up because it’s like your family. You don’t want to have that kind of relationship. You want to have love; you want to have respect; you want to have each other and hold them dear to you. Because you’re spending so much time with these people. My fiancé, I met in the company. And then there’s a dancer in the company who I partnered with for almost 15 years or so since we first met. In some respects, he knows me much better without even having to ask, than a lot of my friends might.

You were on “America’s Got Talent.” What was that experience like?

That experience was interesting. First of all, it was amazing we got to perform at Radio City Music Hall — what an iconic theater to perform in. The theater’s breathtaking and there’s so much history there. So as a dancer, you feel connected to that spirit of what that theater has. And it was hard because every week you were coming up with these different little stories .... So we would have 15-hour days just kind of trying to get things right, trying to come up with stories that we thought that were in a broad enough of a range where so many people would be able to connect with it. And that’s also quite a challenge to get your mind in an understanding of such a broad range of people. And it is reality television, so they are there capturing your reality, and that’s also something that takes some getting used to. Where there’s a camera there, but there’s not. [Laughs] And they’re there to capture your true emotion — the frustration and the happiness and everything that goes along with that — because they also are trying to tell a story about what you’re going through as well. So it’s interesting to see those different levels of everyone trying to do the same thing, but in different mediums.

What are your future plans?

I’m a bit in transition. I’m 37, so at that age where I’m starting to think about family and not traveling as much and all of those things that go along with other aspects of life that aren’t dance based. And it’s also, how long can I keep this longevity happening and my body going in this fashion? And it’s still working for me now and I’m thankful every day that it’s possible. But there is a finite time. It will have to end at some point. It’s interesting because everything that happens keeps your life evolving. So I guess I’m just trying to find the next circle of my evolution. But, I have been doing some personal training and have been working for Tracy Anderson Method when I’m not on tour with MOMIX. It’s a different way of looking at the body and how it can move and how it can foster health and wellness. I think that’s a path I started to be attracted to, the path of health and wellness and how we can keep our bodies at their best for the most amount of time.

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