If you're looking for proof that the new generation of "Dance in America" directors treat choreography merely as video fodder--to be distorted and dismembered at will--check out "The (Paul) Taylor Company: Recent Dances" tonight on PBS (8 p.m., Channel 24; 9 p.m., Channels 28 and 15; 8 p.m. Saturday, Channel 50).
Here are stage creations by an acknowledged master of modern dance--but how they use space, and their development through ensemble movement, have been warped, scrambled or falsified by producer/director Pierre Morin.
Studio-taped in October using facilities of Societe Radio-Canada, Toronto, the hourlong telecast commits the usual sins of TV dance--and then some. In the excerpt from the exuberant, brilliantly layered "Mercuric Tidings" (music by Schubert), Morin's moving camera, quick cuts from group to group and his concentration on certain dancers (thus minimizing others) all destroy the cohesion the work had onstage at UCLA in January.
Morin also chops "Sunset" (to Elgar) into fragments and relies on reaction shots to underline the dramatic implications that Taylor keeps understated. Through interplay between formal and colloquial movement--large-scale lyricism and intimate, realistic gesture, for instance--Taylor defines bittersweet relationships between edgy young soldiers and women in summery dresses. But, if the outcome is certain, the sudden character insights and shifts into deep emotions are continually surprising.
Because of its conventional dramatic structure and simple choreographic design, "Snow White" (to a Donald York score) suffers the least from the TV transcription. Indeed, this Disneyesque fantasia is awfully silly, but the dwarf solos near the end offer such zesty character dancing that they make the whole charade worthwhile.