PBS looks a lot like MTV during "Everybody Dance Now," the season's first "Dance in America" episode tonight at 7 on KVCR Channel 24 and at 8 on KCET Channel 28 and KPBS Channel 15.
Indeed, this useful hourlong survey of choreography for music video chooses many of the same interview subjects and dance clips as the August VH-1 special "Dance! Dance! Dance!"
The new telecast, however, boasts a wider and deeper knowledge of pop culture as well as a research team that manages to find the \o7 exact\f7 old footage that conclusively links past and present.
We're shown the influence of soul man James Brown on such artists as Prince, M.C. Hammer and Michael Jackson, with Brown himself adding comments. The evolution of Motown style gets equal attention, with choreographer Cholly Atkins tracing its origins and components.
Sharing their experiences, Michael Kidd speaks on the Hollywood musical, Rosie Perez on dance in clubs, and street dancers Mr. Wiggles and Crazy Legs on break-dancing and other creations of their subculture.
Meanwhile, director Margaret Selby bombards the viewer with dance images illustrating the interview texts. But the dancing isn't allowed much chance to give the audience pleasure. It's there strictly as evidence and, as soon as it makes its point (usually after only a few seconds), it's gone. Despite title and subject, "Everybody Dance Now" represents a wholly talk-driven experience.
Everyone remains silent, however, on the bizarre gender stereotypes dominating music-video--radically different from the way men and women are depicted in concert dance. The sequence on voguing makes suggestions about sex-role exaggeration as both parody and wish-fulfillment, but you never hear James Brown or Paula Abdul talk about \o7 that\f7 .
In this otherwise celebratory telecast, the most unexpected talk concerns the way frantic music-video editing often destroys the choreography. Everyone from Atkins to Hammer to director Martin Scorsese gets drawn into the discussion. Ironically, Scorsese's description of many music videos as "lots of quick cuts and flashes and I don't really see the dance" could also serve as a criticism of "Everybody Dance Now."