EGG the arts show

April 6, 2001

The Moving Image:
EGG the arts show

Fridays, beginning April 6, 2001, on PBS (check local listings)
Episode 2: Body Language, April 13, 2001

Reviewed by Rose Anne Thom

EGG, the arts show
, a pilot program produced by Thirteen/WNET and broadcast in New York last year, returns for a full national season this April. The series explores art-making in America through eight themed segments. Dance is a major player this year, as it was last year. In the segment “Flight,” David Parsons talks about the inspiration for, and realization of, his well-known solo Caught. The second segment, “Body Language,” explores the power of physical expression in three different forms of dance: the Hawaiian hula, the African/modern fusion choreography of Ron Brown, and ballet, as danced by the Miami City Ballet. The introduction asserts that through dance, people express who they are and what they feel.

Hula masters Sonny Ching, Maile Loo, and Nona Beamer explain how a dancer reveals the meanings of accompanying songs and chants, as the camera shows the actual dancing. Each dance uses specific gestures for objects, events, or feelings, perhaps to honor chiefs and gods; but the way a dancer expresses his or her spirit through that language differentiates “someone who can dance from someone who is a dancer.” Explanations dominate this short episode (EGG segments only last thirty minutes), but it would have been valuable to witness a complete dance. If the young and old hula students shown taking class are any indication, however, the tradition will continue, for “Hula is the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people.”

The segment with Ron Brown takes place in the studio, where he is working with his company Evidence on a new dance, Walking in the Dark. As he shows the dancers what he wants them to do physically, he indicates the message and the mood they must convey. “I don?t want to make choreography,” he declares. “The story is more important to me.” Brown demands that the body language be clear, so that viewers may share the work.

As Miami City Ballet Artistic Director Edward Villella rehearses his company, he recalls the joy of dancing. “When you stop dancing,” he says, “you pass on the infatuation.” As he puts the dancers through their paces prior to an opening night, he recounts the dance values he learned from George Balanchine: The dancer must personify the music and speak it through a physical language. As the curtain is about to rise, he reminds the company that dance is “living out loud with your body.”

One yearns for more time in each segment, but EGG still manages to pack a wallop