If there's anything rarer than a performing arts special on commercial television, it's a performing arts special about a local group on commercial television. That rarity will occur tonight at 7:30 when WDVM-TV (Channel 9) will present "Music in Motion," a half-hour documentary about Choo San Goh, resident choreographer of the Washington Ballet.
Goh is one of Washington's hottest properties in the performing arts, and not just because he was recently featured in People magazine. Without neglecting the Washington Ballet -- for which he choreographed two works this season -- Goh has become a "shuttle choreographer," as it is put, setting works for the Joffrey, Houston, Boston and Pennsylvania ballets. He's a fast worker -- he premiered three ballets in one week.
"Music in Motion" shows Goh at work, and shows the results of that work. The most interesting segments are tantalizingly brief glimpses of Goh in rehearsal, coaching the young Washington Ballet dancers, demonstrating exactly how a certain lift must be performed. He flies around the studio, making his points with the aid of big gestures, using vibrant verbal images to convey his intentions. Addressing the women rehearsing "Birds of Paradise," he tells them to dance "as though you were flying down to attack."
Goh's choreography is described in the show as being individual for its "stances, mathematical movements, speed and uncompromising lifts." Brief excerpts from two of his works -- "Untitled" and "Fives" -- and generous portions of two others -- "Birds of Paradise" and "Lament" -- illustrate this. Producer-director Carol Wonsavage made intelligent choices of what to film and how to film it.
The ballets are well edited; both choreography and music were respected. "Lament," Goh's most recent work for the Washington Ballet, is especially effective on television. Shot mostly in close-ups, this dramatic ballet based on Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" seems more vivid than it did in the theater. The Washington Ballet itself, which gave Goh an artistic home and provides him with the raw material, the bodies, which enable him to create, remains rather in the background during "Music in Motion." But there are dancers in motin too, though they remain mostly anonymous.Douglas Hevenor is Lynn Cote's partner in both "Lament" and "Birds in Paradise"; Julie Miles and John Goding are the other couple in "Birds."