What were the best movies of the year? Is disco music all bad? Has the ballet boom gone bust? Is there anything to be done about TV commercials? Some answers-and some divergent professional opinions-in this annual year-end discussion of the arts by Style critics Gary Arnold, Richard L. Coe, Paul Hume, Alan M. Kriegsman, Joseph Mclellan, Paul Richad, Tom Shales, Lon Tuck, Hollie I. West and Eve Zibart.


Richard: It seems to me that 1978 differed from 1977 less than 1977 differed from 1976. The new seems increasingly old when you look at the year. The Corcoran is now showing an exhibition of Gene Davis' stripe paintings since 1958. "Superman" is a big hit at the movie theaters, but I read Superman as a boy. The exhibitions that get most attention seem to be exhibitions that retrieve the art of the past. This might seem a sort of stagnation, but I don't think it is. I think that we're seeing in the last part of the 20th century that the old is a frontier of much greater interest to large numbers of people than the new.

Nobody a few generations ago could have seen in this country the renaissance and medieval art of Dresden or the treasures of Tut or Victorian photographs or contemporary painting all at once. The past is constantly being placed before us. We seem to be looking backwards with more attention than we are anticipation in the future.

The Egyptians made an enormous hit with Tut. The East Germans are doing the same with the history of their own art. Nest year the Greeks are bringing the treasures of Alexander the Great, the British and the French and the Indians and the other older cultures of the world will probably not be far behind.

I don't think there was any new "ism" that surfaced and blossomed in 1978. Instead, whether it's realism or continuation of abstract painting or the kind of minor bubbling along of conceptual art, what seems increasingly present is an ability to compare disparate things with one another.

McLELLAN: Paul, the thing that impressed me most about Tut and Dresden was that the lines were longer than the lines outside of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Is this a new development? Are traveling art exhibits functioning on a level that's really competitive with a mass entertainment?

RICHARD: I think it's been happening for a relatively short time but it has been happening. The old National Gallery opened in 1941, with the opening of the East Building this year, it has doubled in size. Being exposed to the past is a habit-forming experience and that habit is being formed throughout the country.

McLELLAN: At the same time, is there a blurring of the distinction between high and low art? There s an exhibit of Time covers at the National Portrait Gallery righ now, and a Steinberg exhibit at the Hirshhorn that suggests that art is becoming more of a consumer commodity.

RICHARD: I think it's healthy. Steinberg's drawings are in many ways much less easy to grasp than the art of Edvard Munch, and besides, pictures are pictures. High art or low art-that's a 19th-century attitude.

COE: You have to remember that a family can go to a museum for free, whereas a family going to the movies would cost $20. I think that's one explanation for the crowds.

ZIBART: But you still have to get up at 4 a.m. and stand in line until 8 a.m. I know, because I did it.

TUCK: In New York, the Metropolitan Museum is charging for the Tut show, and still getting the same kind of lines.

RICHARD: Movies are popular art-do you make a distinction between high art and low art in them? "Superman," for example.

ARNOLD: You don't take similar expectations to Ingmar Bergman's "Autumn Sonata" and to "Superman," but there's nothing to prevent anyone from appreciating both, or being in the mood for one today, and in the mood for a different sort of experience another day.

KRIEGSMAN: But how many of the hundreds of thousands who stand in line for Tut are actually going to go to see a Steinberg show or anything else but this kind of glamorous spectacle?

RICHARD: There was some concern in this city when the new East building opened that it would empty the other art museums in town, but nothing of the sort has happened.

KRIEGSMAN: Paul's generalization about focus on retrieval of the past seems to me to pertain generally to all the arts. He doesn't see this as stagnation, but I tend to see it very much as a kind of stagnation. Don't you feel a lack, don't you feel disturbed at the lack of new currents, new visions, new approaches at the leading edge?

RICHARD: I don't feel disturbed at all. I think that for 100 years the avant-garde, by leap-frogging each "ism" with another, has seemed to carry art along. There's plenty of room now for this kind of retrieval. When one finds an abstract painter learning how to draw in a traditional representational manner, the pictures that result, the best of them at least, do not look to me at all stagnant.

McLELLAN: One of the other artistic events that hit the news this year was a thing called the Museum of Temporary Art. It seems to be picking up things that we don't usually notice and saying, hey look, this is art, but don't look too long because it's temporary. Well? Is art a great slow-moving thing, or is it also anything that happens if you happen to look at it in a certain way.

RICHARD: Even the Temporary Art exhibitions for the most part have been quite wordy, lots of information on the wall, lots of poetry and quotes from other sources. There's lots of alternative space in Washington; the Museum of Temporary Art is not alone. It's little more lighthearted in its presentation than some of the others, but much of what we see flies right by.

HUME: I think in the literal sense Kriegsman's word "stagnation" is not too strong. Not stagnation in its most negative sense, however. I can only think of a weak parallel that appeared in a bulletin I saw, to the effect that some lilies here in town which had refused to bloom for years bloomed this year for the first time because the water in which they were growing was allowed to become stagnent.

That's a corny illustration I Guess, but I just read it last night. (Laughter.)


ZIBART: It seems to me that, more than any of the other fields, rock is moving. But the road forks, and rock travels with one wheel in the financial lane and one wheel over in the esthetic lane. The fact is that records are making more money than movies: $3.5 billion last year.

Musically, it seems to me that there are two major trends: One is that, after didding around through the middle '70s in very commercial pop, rock 'n' roll in its pure form is being revived. The best examples are Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones tour, which was terrific. Even the abortive New Wave-punk was aimed at resuscitating rock 'n' roll. The other trend of course is disco-the better disco, a la the Bee Gees, and your basic bump-and-grind disco, which is paralyzingly dull. And it's all over, it's absorbing radio formats right and left. WKTU-FM in New York has switched from soft-rock to disco, and in one ratings period jumped from a 1.4 share to 11.3, the first double-digit ratings in the New York market in years.

Naother interesting thing about rock is that it was expected to be the national crossover medium, but that hasn't worked out, especially as far as television's concerned. Various TV stars have tried to make albums; most of them flopped dismally. John Travolta cannot sell an album, even though he can sell a movie. The televised rock concert shows don't draw audiences, and that's why they're confined to late night.

The only TV that works are things like the Barry Manilow specials and Donny and Marie. They tried making series about struggling young rock groups. It hasn't worked. Apparently there's just no interest in how the rock music industry works. You're just supposed to get up there and dance.

McLELLAN: What has happened in the past is that the big record companies go for what's safe, and they weren't aware of rock really until it was pretty well established. So small record companies brought in this new kind of music and eventually some of them lost their stars to the big companies. What big companies go for is formulas, and the rock formula seems to be pretty well played out now.

So we get disco-the kind of pale, wiggly thing that crawls out when a rock is turned over. . . .

SHALES: Well, hasn't rock always been a celebration of mindlessness, of amateurishness and boorishness?

ZIBART: Not so much so as TV.

SHALES: No, no, no, it takes a great deal of professionalism to do a television show and a certain amount of acumen, and people are not celebrated in television for the way they can tear up a hotel room, you know, or how many drugs they take. I don't see how you can use a phrase like pure rock 'n' roll and how, therefore, anything such as disco can contaminate something that is a living contamination in the first place.

ZIBART: I think rock music is like any art.There's a small amount of good stuff going on and a whole lot of garbage.

SHALES: But can it be an art when it is a rejection of discipline?

ZABART: I don't believe that Bruce Springsteen is a rejection of discipline.

ZIBART: New ideas pop up in every discipline all the time. Just because one fails doesn't mean that the next one that survivies is better.

KRIEGSMAN: You've spoken of two major sorts of rock 'n' roll and disco, but wouldn't you say it's as true of the whole rock-pop field as any of the other fields we've talked about: That, generally speaking, there isn't much really that's new going on.

ZIBART: I stall think you'd have to say that disco, as it suddenly exists, kind of burst out of a dark corner.

WEST: You mentioned that one of the major trends is a return to the old. How much of rock, if any, is utilizing other kinds of music?

ZIBART: Certainly jazz strains show up in much more rock than they ever have before. I think that Country-and-Western has moved to opo, not pop moving to Country-and-Western. True Country-and-Western music is going to die out as the older performers die out. So what's happening is that all these things are folding in toward pop.

WEST: Well, what is that going to make pop?

ZIBART: It looked for a while like it was going to be just glop. But I think instead that there is going to be a wide variety of music available, most of if very good.

SHALES: It is like television in a way. It's populist, it tends to absorb things into the mainstream, and the most homogenized things become the most powerful. In fact, there are rock groups called Television and Network.

ZIBART: Television (the group) is somewhat avant-garde. . . so is the Tubes, which is the most avant-garde group.

SHALES: Which went down the tubes. . .

ZIBART: It is populist, but luckily enough people have begun to take rock seriously as a musical art form that there are some true virtuosos in there to cling to.

TUCK: In rock, if it continues for another 20 or 30 years, or for another century, is there going to be continuity as you get in painting or in drama? Traditions that are built on?

ZIBART: I think there will be a few-it certainly seems that the Rolling Stones are as powerful as ever. I would guess that 10 years from now people will be listening to some of Ronstadt's better albums. There will certainly be some jazz people who last, but I think there'll be some rock, too. And it influences everything. Rock music more than any of the other mediums we've mentioned before has a widespread commercial influence on what people buy. It influences the way you dance, and so the way you dress, and as a result, your behavior, I guest. Movies

Arnold: **the American film industry seems very prosperous this year. Box office receipts in 1978 will near the$3-billion mark, and I remember four or five years ago they were overjoyed that it approached $2-billion. The products of the system itself are again a mixed bag, although if you go selectively, you'll find enough to be interested in and diverted by. The most successful movies of the year have been "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Saturday Night Fever," "The Goodbye Girl," "Grease," "Jaws 2," "Heaven Can Wait," "Foul Play," "National Lampoon's Animal House," "Hooper," "Up in Smoke." It would appear that comedy is really the most reliable form. And that also people are very much prone to escapism and to the motion-picture spectacle. I think Superman is a gaiant prototype for a new combination of comedy and spectacle, but it's impossible to isolate tendencies that could be reliably described as new.

RICHARD: When you talk about the success of comedy, it sounds like [Fred] Silverman is on the right track at NBC. What's the influence or cross-influence of television on film?

ARNOLD: Well, I think probably the most significant influence is that it's training ground for the movies, a talent pool. In the wake of the success of "Animal House," for instance, Universal has signed both John Belushi as Dan Aykroyd, also from TV, to long-term contracts. Chances are they will now have the opportunity to work out the projected series of road comedies they have in mind.

KRIEGSMAN: Is Coppola's "Apocalypse Now," if it ever materializes, likely to be an apocalyptic turn in another direction from comedy and to what's going on generally?

ARNOLD: It's difficult for me to conceive of that being an influential or trend-setting movie at this stage. I mean it's become like some classic that's been rediscovered; you keep waiting for it to appear, as if it were "Ivan the Terrible, Part II." It appears as if "Apocalypse" will be released in 1979. I've head it might be Easter, or it might be summer, or it might be fall. I've a funny feeling it will probably be the last movie of the decade.

KRIEGSMAN: What can you tell us about Stanley Kubrick's supposedly coming horror film to end horror films, and how does that fit into the trend of things?

ARNOLD: Well, Jack Nicholson is in it and Shelly Duvall, and a child actor who plays their son. It's called "The Shining," from Stephen King's horror novel about a supernatural house.

KRIEGSMAN: From the sound of it, you'll have to have a shrink's permission to get into it, according to what he wants to do with it-really frighten us to death.

SHALES: How do you account for so many people being snookered by that load of malarkey called "Interiors?" It was widely discussed and apparently it made money.

ARNOLD: Well, I'm not sure if a lot of people have been snookered by it. People simply respect [Woody] Allen and want to see what he's doing. American filmmakers often seem most self-deceiving when they get very, very serious, which means solemn and pretentious. That happened in "Interiors" and in "Days of Heaven" and "Blue Collar." It happens very clearly in "The Deer Hunter."

ZIBART: You think "Interiors" is funny?

RICHARD: Women like "Interiors."

ARNOLD: Do women like "Interiors?"

ZIBART: I think "Interiors" is very funny. I can't believe that anybody would make that kind of third-grade parody on Ingmar Bergman without knowing it and I don't believe anybody like Woody Allen who says 'I'm going to make a serious movie' should be taken seriously. The minute I hear that, I know it's not going to be true.

ARNOLD: No, he had an irresistible impulse to make what he felt was a serious movie in the Bergman style. He has now satisfied that impulse.

SHALES: Altman fell on his face this year with "A Wedding," and Pakula with "Comes a Horseman" and didn't Martin Scorcese have a disaster, too?

ARNOLD: No, Scorsese is represented by "The Last Waltz" this year, which I think you have to consider a success, and influential in establishing Dolby sound as a real enhancement of the movies.

SHALES: But haven't a number of allegedly reliable directors come a cropper this year and begun to look sort of seedy?

ARNOLD: Well, I think Altman is perhaps the most alarming case, partly because he's been making movies at such a rapid rate that he may not have time to absorb the responses to the ones that have gone before, to take stock from them.

KRIEGSMAN: Is "Superman" going to unleash upon us a whole rash of comic-book superheroes, Batman and Captain Marvel and like that?SHALES: Television has already cornered the market.

ARNOLD: But it does represent spectacular movie-making and this kind of movie is going to become a cornerstone for the major studios. If the "Superman" series can be sustained, it will be as important to Warners as the Bond films have been to United Artists, as the "Star Wars" cycle is likely to be to 20th Century-Fox. I think it's going to be a basic kind of popular entertainment.

ZIBARTd What about new faces that you like?

ARNOLD: New faces? You now have young performers as attractive as Chris Reeve in Superman, as the two young leads in "Movie, movie"-Harry Hamlin, who's making his first film, and Barry Bostwick-or Tim Matheson in "National Lampoon's Animal House." It seems to me that here you have four potential romantic comedy stars. They ought to be the ones studios think of first now, instead of whether Redford's available, or Hoffman's available.

I think the best female performance would be Jill Clayburgh in "An Unmarried Woman." Genevieve Bujold was very good in a thriller called "Coma." Bergman and Ullman are very strong in "Autumn Sonata." One of the better ones was Meg Foster in a rather trivial-minded movie called "A Different Story." But all of these don't have quite the impact of the best male performances this year. Nick Nolte in "Who'll Stop the Rain" and Gary Busey in "The Buddy Holly Story" and even Reeve in "Superman"-they simply hold the screen in a way that none of the actresses has been able to.

TUCK: Last year, with "The Turning Point" and "Julia," you were saying that women's movies were back, but they don't seem to have been working this year, do they?

ARNOLD: No, there's been no follow-through, although Anne Bancroft is now supposed to play Joan Crawford in a movie of "Mommie Deares" which I'm not sure I'm really looking forward to. And if you see what women's pictures become in "Moment by Moment," a movie made by Jane Wagner with Lily Tomlin in the lead, it would appear that it's going no place at all except into a void. Looking at Tomlin playing a zombie-ized Beverly Hills housewife who think she can find romance with a street kid played by John Travolta-you just wish someone would take her aside and point her in the direction of a comedy vehicle again. TELEVISION

SHALES: Well, television contitues to be much more of an issue than an art form or an art, and this year has not exactly been the year of anything, I'm afraid. Certain institutions are looking into aspects of television on a number of fronts, and there could be some sort of change as a result, The Carnegie Commission, which originally made a report on public television that helped set up the system that we now have, is looking into it all over again and will be reporting early in 1979. The House communications subcommittee is attempting to rewrite the Communications Act of 1934. The FCC is looking into network domination of television. The FTC is trying to look into the advertising of sugary food to children.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which is a voluntary, industry-supported group, is pokily and very diffidently looking into the problem of clutter, which I consider to be a major problem in television now. It's like urban blight, only it's blight of the airwaves, a blight of commercials and promos.

"Holocaust" was seen by more people than any dramatic television program this year, and I suppose the man of the year was Fred Silverman, who is probably one of the few factors left that could substantially change commercial network television.

In the other forms we've been talking about we keep returning to the past, bringing up old things. But in television, I think you see the public embracing technology with all its might. Grpgrams like "Mork and Mindy" and "Battlestar Galactica" are big hits and more and more commercials are fantastic technological arrays or explosions of computer animation and electronic graphics.

ARNOLD: Is "Mork and Mindy" a hit because of technology, or because of Robin Williams' telent?

SHALES: "Mork and Mindy" is an escapist fantasy based on a proven formula. A person from outer space has starred in a hit series before.

ARNOLD: But Williams would be funny playing a soda jerk, right?

SHALES: That's true, except he wouldn't have the comic range available to him to, you know, sit on his head and do all those funny things. It wouldn't make sense as a soda jerk whereas it makes a sort of sense this way. No, "Mork and Mindy proves again that television is a personality medium, despite all the millions of dollars that go into program development and all of the hundreds of pilots.

TUCK: The arts have proliferated on public television in the last two or three years. Live art from the Met, from Lincoln Center, so on and so forth. I wouldn't really give PBS credit for this, because it's a case in which Lincoln Center and others have said, "Let's do this." So is it possible for PBS to be at least a channel that other people could use if it's not going to take the initiative itself?

SHALES: I don't find an increased amount of opera and ballet and theater on public television particularly inspiring. It's a basically safe programming that giant corporations can underwrite without causing any possible tingle of controversy anywhere. What public television needs to do is originate more works for television.

McLELLAN: Television has been the pacesetter in the return to the past. I wonder, if I swept the dial at any random moment, how much of the material would be fresh material?

SHALES: I wouldn't be able to guess, but television is the great recycler. It's the blob, it sucks things out of every other form and homogenizes them and translates them.

RICHARD: This is bound to increase . . . If you turn on television, your're not going to see any television from the 18th or 17th centuries. But as the Betamax spreads, as the library of tape and film increases, the past is going to be on television screens more and more.

SALES: Television has a wonderful way of making time irrelevant. You can find a 1930s movie comedy on one station and you can see a program on the King Tut exhibit on another station and you can see a 1950s situation comedy with everyone wear funny-looking clothes on another station.

KRIEGSMAN: I'm wondering what our time is contributing. If television is the dominant communications now, it seems to me it would be nice if works were being created for television.

TUCK: Well, Tom, when is cable television finally going to arrive?

SHALES: Well, of course every month or so a speech will come to my desk from a commercial network executive saying we should be wary of new technologies. People in the radio biz were saying that 1948, and it's only natural. The more of those speeches I get the more encouraged I am, becuase obviously they're viewing cable as an increased threat. I believe cable is supposed to reach the 33 percent threshhold - which is a so-called snowball figure, that's when it will have a great national impact, or a significant impact - by 1981. Some people say 1984, but who knows.

ZIBART: Won't someone raise the issue of whether there is ever anything on TV that fine arts critics or anybody else would like to watch?

KREIGSMAN: Yes there is . . . look at "Visions." It was a noble experiment now about to expire.

SHALES: But because of a lack of funds - not for lack of available material or playwrights who would like to write for it. It's a lack of money and again it's the public television problem of having all the underwriters they need when it comes to something safe and old, and not being able to come up with any loot when it's something new and potentially controversial.

RICHARD: Television has too many personalities whose only sense is of the TV lens, and I don't think they've had the school that an older generation of comics and singers and people did. I mean there was something about the fact that Milton Berle had all that . . . experience.

SHALE: Milton Berle is now doing commercials for video-games that give people something else to watch besides what's on TV. A generation with television as its only fram of reference has taken over television, but at least you can occasionally see their love of the medium. There are so few people in television who love television and that's one of the problems with it.

KRIEGSMAN: Do you find that the increase of self-promotional material on public television is also becoming a turnoff? These marathons of send-in-your-money-to-channel-such-and-such can be as appalling as commercials.

SHALES: Worse. It offends the hell out of me, and yet it does its job. They have to brow beat viewers to get it, but the money has to come from somewhere. It's a pitiful spectacle and entirely to be lamented, but what is the alternative?

RICHARD: Revolution.

SHALES: Yes. (Laughter.) No private jokes. Music

HUME: On the matter of where we're going, many of the principal composers of the world today have turned right around. Penderecki, for example, says there is an 80 percent change in his work compared to what he wrote nine years ago. Ginastera says he's writing more songfully. These men are also teaching at prominent institutions, and students tend to follow their teachers' leads. So I have a feeling that we're in for a very decided era of successful conservative music.

We're at a time of synthesis, where all the experimenting of the last 20 or 25 years, which has in many cases been barren or non-productive, iis over, except insofar as good techniques and ideas are picked up and used in ways that are designed to have a greater appeal to the public.

TUCK: Somebody recently asked who the greatest living composer is, and the answer that somebody gave was that there was none after Stravinsky. Now you've heard a lot of new music this year - I wonder if you think you've heard any masterpieces?

HUME: I don't know. I think a masterpiece is something which is going to last, and so I'm not old enough yet to know whether they're going to.

TUCK: But you must have favorite pieces heard this year.

HUME: The five chromatic Dances of William Albright, which is itself based on music of the past. I'm fascinated at the moment with Penderecki's 'Paradise Lost,' but I haven't any idea how it's going to add up in the next six or eight months even. I have heard some new music of George Crumb, who is being violently assailed by many musicians as being reactionary - and he is literally rewriting, in a new way, music of Debussy and Liszt for the piano, but doing so very effectively. Again, that's a clue to what's happening: the effective use of past materials and in a manner more acceptable to a large public, but not new.

McLELLAN: Getting back to your comment about teachers and students, this was something I noticed at Tanglewood last summer. The kids are learing that can be taught and they are learning it really superbly. My formulation of it was that a lot of the modes of the recent past are being used now the way key signatures were being used in the past. I heard compositions that were written in "the key of Edgar Varese" for example, that sort of thing. There is a tremendous technical expansion of resources available to a young composer, and I think what we're really waiting for is people who can use these resources and have something to say.

HUME: I want to add that Albright's Five Chromatic Dances, and the performance by David Burge, created a total absolute silence that was unbroken in the Kennedy Center when it was over for an appreciable amount of time. Some person said to me, "What did you think of that?", and I was unable to speak at all. I was totally wrapped up in what I'd heard - which I'm convinced right now is a great piece. When I met the composer I couldn't open my mouth. He said, "Paul gets emotional."

But I talked about it in terms of the last piano sonata of Beethoven and I've only done that about one other piece - the piano fantasy of Aaron Copland, which is now 20 years old - in which Copland, by the way, did break new ground.

TUCK: But did Albright's chromatic dances break new ground?


KRIEGSMAN: Paul, I'm interested in your reference to effective use of past materials as a kind of general theme of music of our time and I'm wondering if you don't see - as I tend to - the roots of this whole thing as far back as Stravinsky and Schoenberg, who both recycled the baroque, the rococo, the classical era in their own seemingly revolutionary terms.

HUME: Yes, each era builds upon the past, but if you look, for example, at the early 19th century, you don't see nearly as much direct poaching on predecessors.

ZIBART: I don't want to sound like the only pragmatist in the bunch, but there were a lot of technical things that happened in music this year, for instance the strike at the Kennedy Center, that must have had some effect.

HUME: I spent five weeks as a labor reporter and I feel very strongly about it. I think the effect commercially has been very heavily felt at the Kennedy Center by the symphony and the performing arts society, with the publci at large that is impatient with the repairs at the Center, finding it too much trouble to go, empty seats to a degree that I have not seen before.

Maybe there was nothing there before, though. The Washington Performing Arts Society people, who thought the Schubert series of eight concerts was going to be a tremendous artistic and financial success, lost their shirts. I think one of the disasters of this whole Schubert thing is that people keep on playing the Trout quintet in Washington every week and that poor fish just smells by now.


ARNOLD: I'm a great fan of John Williams' film scores and I think he's made an enormous difference in the movies over the last four or five years, and I know he does work in classical forms but I've never heard his pieces. I wonder if you have and if you believe in that kind of cross-fertilization?

HUME: The pieces work very well when they're played in symphony programs. That 's an unusual thing and I think it's a mistake because the public loves it. To hear a suite from "Close Encounters" after the suite from "Star Wars" is a bit repetitious, but there are some marvelous things in them and I don't know of anybody else in this generation writing in big popular movies who is writing as wonderfully for orchestra and musically. Totally unoriginal, but wonderfully effective. Dance

KRIEGSMAN: In dance, as much as in the other fields we've discussed, the overall retrogressive tendencies are as much in evidence. But there is a quest for the new. I'm thinking of Mikhail Baryshnikov's switch from American Ballet Theater, where he was mostly confined to very traditional roles. He's now gone to the New York City Ballet, George Balanchine's group, mainly in the hopes of stirring Balanchine himself into new creative efforts that would focus on Barshnikov as the central performer. Ironically Balanchine has had health problems, so nothing along those lines has happened, and Baryshnikov finds himself dancing old-fashioned sorts of story ballets. But his motivation was something new.

We now find both of the professional ballet companies in this city resting their efforts largely on new work by new and relatively unknown choreographers. In the case of the Washington Ballet there's Choo San Goh. In the case of the Capital Ballet it's Keith Lee, Baryshnikov, looking for new material, has turned to young Choo San Goh.

There are signs that the so-called dance explosion is still very much with us, though my own feeling is that the peak has been passed. But for example in the Kennedy Center honors program, which was just inaugurated, two of the five artists honored were dance artists, Astaire and Balanchine was the only significant one.

RICHARD: What about Fred Astaire?

KRIEGSMAN: Oh, yes, I take it back. Absolutely, Fred Astaire.

ZIBART: Are you worried about the sudden popularity of ballet artists as "stars?" Does that seem to take away from their aura, or might it tend to force ballet companies to use a Leslie Browne before she was ready?

KRIEGSMAN: Well, some people would say it already has. I don't know.I think there are certainly very good things. It has helped to popularize attendance.

RICHARD: Don't you feel that the changes in music are important? Isn't there more movement to music than there was 10 years ago?

KRIEGSMAN: Yeah, I would say so. The rather chaotic rhythms of the serialists and experimentalists have given way to a much more recognizable pulse in new music generally. That's part of the conservative trend, but it has given a new kind of physicality to the sound, and this ties in with the whole emphasis on the body and movement.

COE: Well the male dancer has certainly had a very full couple of years. The male dancer's star rank has certainly made dancing acceptable for younger people.

KRIEGSMAN: You can trace that back primarily to the arrival of Rudolph Nureyev.

RICHARD: Why didn't Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and those people have the same effect?

KRIEGSMAN: When Astaire was at the height of his powers in the movies in the '30s he served very much as a model for people that went ballroom dancing, but in the realm of ballet at the time the image of the male dancer was still very effete and weird. But Nureyev's sheer physical virtuosity caught something in the American imagination.

ARNOLD: Are there any young dancers on the verge of greatness who haven't broken through, who you would expect to, perhaps in the next year?

KRIEGSMAN: I'm sure there are because there always are. Fernando Bujones may be at that point. There are signs he's maturing as an artist. There are people much further out on the horizon like Patrick Defonde from France. I have not seen him, but the reports are that here's a wonder kid. As far as ballerinas are concerned, I don't see anyone who offers that kind of promise, but I'm convinced they're there.

RICHARD: If you go to the ballet in any American city, would the dancing and production be better or worse than, say, four years ago? Has this dancing explosion lifted the medium?

KRIEGSMAN: I would say there's been a general lifting in the past 10 years. The Russian defectors will all tell you that it's simply astonishing to come to the United States and see how many technically finished and able dancers there are available.

ARNOLD: I was wondering if you're satisfied with the Dance in America series on television?

KRIEGSMAN: Generally speaking, yes. They've really mastered the art of putting something that's made for the stage onto the tube without sacrificing too much.

SHALES: Won't those tapes be worth more when you can project them on a big screen, because I always think of television as a face medium and not a body medium. To be choreographically true you really have to show the entire stage in the frame, don't you?

KRIEGSMAN: It depends on the ballet. You can see in the Balanchine programs that they edged away from big ensembles where all the dancers would be reduced to ants, instead concentrating on things that are more like the Astaire-Rogers duets in which facial closeups give you something that you wouldn't get in the theater.

RICHARD: What will happen to the young dancers in the, say, 1990s, who have this enormous library of past masters to study at leisure?

KRIEGSMAN: Right, I think obviously it will be an educational tool of enormous influence and power.

RICHARD: And stagnation. Theater

COE: Would that I had had such a wonderful experience as Paul Hume did in music, but I haven't heard anything really new and thrilling this year. My three major concerns are still new plays, quality and cash. The stagnation issue seems pertinent but not necessarily depressing. I think there is a very good reason for people to become aware of the plays of Chekhov. Noel Coward and the rest. But to find new plays and to mount them well requires that regional theaters continue to operate, and they're all on deficit funding. One thing that I found very interesting, I've been talking to people involved with trying to get grants from the government: You can get art money from HUD, you can get if from the transportation department, these little nooks and crannies have dough to give to the arts.

But there are only so many true artists to go around, even though there is an enormous audience. So everybody is doing the old familiar plays. New plays are wildly expensive. A play that was done Off-Broadway this year, and is coming to the Kennedy Center, is called "On Golden Pond." I thought it was a fine play. It got excellent notices from practically everybody in New York, it cost about $30,000 to stage Off-Broadway. To do it on Broadway with one set and six characters is going to cost $250,000. That's absolutely ridiculous, and that's why it is so difficult to have new plays.

SHARES: An hour of prime-time TV costs about $300,000.

COE: The interesting thing is that the theater is a seed for the rest. There are now movie offers coming in on this particular play from two major film stars-women- and the offers have now reached $250,000. In order words, everyone is looking for new material, but where the hell do you find it?

SHALES: Could I ask a sort of chicken or egg question? Are we only getting old plays because audiences will only respond to old plays or are we only getting old plays because nobody can come up with any new plays? Were there ripples of significance to the failure of "Semmelweiss" at the Kennedy Center, or was it just not a good show?

COE: I don't think "Semmelweiss" is all that bloody good. I think that word got around with people that you have to sit though too much, and it was not gripping material but fairly obvious material, although the playwright got excited about it. I just don't think it was that good a play and I think that also holds for most new plays.

KRIEGSMAN: To what extent do you think that labor contracts have affected quality in terms of new plays and the ability ot produce them once they're written?

COE: Recently Actors Equity introduced several new clauses so that even in the Broadway musicals on tour around the country, the chorus people get about $700 a week. This means that if you're going to have 30 dancers you're going to have one hell of an expensive show, and it has to be an absolute smash hit to afford it. At regional theaters, you can keep the cost down. But just think what it does to the regional theaters to have the energy cost go up. And some of the dinner theaters I've talked to say they are paying 40 percent more for food this year than they were last. Which is kind of hair-raising because dinner theaters are the only commercial theater we have around Washington. The rest of them all have nonprofit angles.

ARNOLD: Are the movie companies going to become a source of new investment cash? I gather Paramount was an investor in "Platinum." Do you expect that to continue?

COE: They were for a time, and now they're back in it again. I think the "Wiz" thing is a very interesting example, and certainly "Platinum," which is still struggling along now that it is a different kind of musical...although of course the middle-aged and older critics didn't know how to react to it. (Laughter.) I think it was a real effort and in many ways rather fun. I found some of it rather repulsive, but I enjoyed the concept.

TUCK: Do you have any comment on the present state of theater on television?

COE: I can go for it on PBS, but I cannot watch any of the others because I can't bear the commercials. The commercials are driving me crazy even on news shows, and I don't know how they manage to get so damn many in. When I was on a TV show a half-hour long we had 15 minutes of commercials. There must be at least 18 by now. Tom, what about that?

SALES: Technically there are limits, but they are mostly voluntary, self-imposed limits and they're easily disobeyed.

RICHARD: Has anyone ever been censured or reproved or forced back from commercials?

SHALES: I think I can say categorically, no.

NCLELLAN: Is there any experimental theater happening?

COE: Ah, yes. For instance at the moment we're about to see Le Clud K spring...It's two men and a mannequin and they wander about and throw the manequin around and pull the mannequin apart and then it's over. Now all this is very much praised experimental theater, but to me this is just being perverse to appeal to a very limited audience. I say let'em have it, fine. But don't ask for big audiences. Jazz

WEST: Jazz is still suffering from a split personality. I say that because jazz musicians covet popularity, but they know their art is not a mass art, it's a music very much like classicial music, although it doesn't have the financial and audience support.

Out of this you get two kinds of jazz musicians-Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, people who try to utilize rock music and seek a wider audience-and you've got the so called pure jazz musician. I don't think there's stagnation just now, but there's synthesis. Musicians like David Murray, George Russell, are reaching back to the past. Russell is using some of the big band concepts of the past and combining them with his own methods.He's also good friends with Karlheinz Stockhausen, so he has tried to employ some of the methods of 20th-century classical music.

But there is no great movement in jazz such as there was in the 1960s, with Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman, or in the 1940s with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk. Economically, jazz is doing well in the way of record issues. But on the other hand there's not much jazz to be hard live outside of New York.

Washington is at the bottom of the list, I think, for available jazz clubs.We've had club closings in the last year or so. Overall, I think jazz is in a good, in a healthy state in maybe three or four cities-New York, Los Angeles, Chicago...otherwise it's still hanging by the thread it's always hung by.

RICHARD: Who buys all these records?

WEST: Mostly younger people-who are hearing them for the first time. And so it's having a very good effect in that. And of course collectors.

KRIEGSMAN: Is there any support for jazz-government or corporate-outside of the guy who goes and buys a drink at Blues Alley?

WEST: Well there's a pittance from the National Endowment. They gave $500,000 to jazz last year. That's not very much money compared to what they give others.

ZIBART: Hollie, 10 or 20 years ago being a jazz musician was like being a baseball player, you started in the bush leagues and then you got up to the minor leagues and by the time Art Blakey asked you to play trumpet for him you were right up there, it was like becoming a Yankee. Now that we have instant stars, is the quality of new jazz artists decreasing?

WEST: Not many jazz musicians become stars. What has hurt jazz and cut the supply of musicians is that many of them have chosen to go into rock where there's more money.

KRIEGSMAN: What strikes me as weird about the thread that jazz hangs by is the disproportionally large influence that jazz has had on other art forms in our time, from literature to painting to other forms of music to dance.

TUCK: Internationally.

KRIEGSMAN: Absolutely. You could make a very strong case for the fact that the Balanchine personna in ballet could not have happened without his contact and immersion in jazz, and that in fact the Diagilhev phenomenon in Paris had its roots in American jazz. And yet the thing itself, hangs by a thread. Isn't that bizarre?

WEST: It's a paradox that troubles a lot of jazz musicians. Some people think that some musicians have gone crazy because of it. People who know they have creative genius, and resent not being recognized.

KRIEGSMAN: It seems to me to be the most ripped-off field in the history of the arts.

TUCK: Maybe it isn't being packaged or promoted right. Chamber music in the United States traditionally has always played to small, rather stuffy audiences, and when the Kennedy Center opened they decided to start having chamber music in the Concert Hall, which seats 2,700 people. And voila they had a sold out house the first night.

WEST: Jazz has been burdened by people who try to package jazz in the same way they would package pop music. And it can't be done that way because it's not a music with a mass appeal. It can't be packaged like classical music because it's not a music as much for the concert stage.

RICHARD: It's interesting, too, that television hasn't done anything for jazz either.

SHALES: There was a lot of jazz on television in the '50s and it was treated with great respect on programs like "Omnibus," and on some CBS specials, but now zippo, I guess.

ZIBART: What has happened when jazz has taken the concert stage under Dave Brubeck or the Modern Jazz Quartet, stages like the Kennedy Center?

WEST: I think it drew people who like classical music and a large portion of the jazz audience. But there are many jazz fans who didn't like the Modern Jazz Quartet because they felt that it was too stiff, that it was just too formal.

RICHARD: Well, under what circumstances would you think jazz might make it in Washington?

WEST: I don't know of any circumstance, any immediate circumstance, that would allow jazz to make it. I think we would have to return, say, to the '40s or '50s for jazz to make it in Washington.