KCET's enterprising but highly uneven 12-day preview of the upcoming Los Angeles Festival begins tonight with an emphasis on dance.
The extremes: Ballet de Lyon's "Cendrillon" (Aug. 30) offers exactly what festival audiences will see on Sept. 15, 16 and 17. But Rudy Perez's oft-shown 1970 "District 1" (Aug. 26) misrepresents the kind of work Perez and his company will present on Sept. 12 and 13.
Most recently seen on the "Alive From Off Center" series, "District 1" is a dance-for-camera experiment that "doesn't resemble the work I've done in the 1980s," Perez told The Times Friday. He was surprised to learn it was being shown and said he could have provided recent performance tapes had he been asked. Viewers beware.
A survey of the dance telecasts:
Mon., Aug. 24, 11 p.m. "Hail the New Puritan." The Richard Lester 1964 Beatles film "A Hard Day's Night" is the obvious model for this fictionalized look at the milieu of British dancer/choreographer/pop icon Michael Clark. Alas, the glimpses of outrageous London fashion celebrities, and the rehearsal and interview segments with Clark and the members of his company, all prove more compelling than the puerile dance sequences.
Tues., Aug. 25, 11 p.m. "Karole Armitage." This London Weekend Television portrait of a distinctive, multidisciplinary American dancer/choreographer is talky and very basic in its attempts to make her creative preoccupations lucid for a British society with no significant modern- and post-modern dance of its own. But it's worth enduring the dull and/or silly chatter for the hot, imaginative dancing.
Wed., Aug. 26, 11 p.m. "Festival Sampler" (a k a "Dance Medley"). Two apache duets by La La La Human Steps reveal the assaultive physicality and provocative sexual politics exploited by Canadian choreographer Edouard Lock. Two impressive passages from the work of Urban Bush Women suggest the emotional extremes of black experience in America. A recent interview with Bella Lewitzky details the creation of "Facets," seen in several Southern California engagements, but curiously ignores the work that Lewitzky is creating for the Festival. Perez's "District 1" and comic mime sketches by El Tricicle complete the program.
Thurs., Aug. 27, 11 p.m. "Sometimes it Works, Sometimes it Doesn't." Merce Cunningham and John Cage (interviewed separately) discuss the evolution of their ground-breaking aesthetic. Cunningham engagingly discusses process, making complicated issues clear if not simple. Cage rambles but probes into knotty questions of personal outlook and even bias. Footage of Cage performance experiments and the video dance, "Channels/Inserts" are included.
Fri., Aug. 28, 12:05 a.m. "The Performance World of Rachel Rosenthal." A scrapbook of biographical artifacts and performance fragments that provides a context for Rosenthal's work and conveys a strong sense of her power as a performer. Her development from a stand-up-comedy style to an neo-Expressionist, American- butoh persona is especially fascinating: a case of an artist abandoning a glib, verbal approach to investigate deeper and riskier possibilities.
Sun., Aug. 30, 3:30 p.m. "Cendrillon" (Cinderella). The Ballet de Lyon production of Maguy Marin's doll-house version, with music mostly by Prokofiev. Lots of antic pantomime and clever staging, practically no dance invention to speak of and not much actual dancing either. The current French obsession with novelty and spectacle at its most whimsical.