The third installment of public TV's "The Magic of Dance" series, authored and hosted by Dame Margot Fonteyn, redoubles the disappointing impression left by the series debut a couple of weeks ago (the current segment airs tonight at 9 on Channel 26). The magic, sad to say, is sporadic, and the rest of the program contents are so helter-skelter and superficial that only Fonteyn's personal charisma keeps one's eyes fastened on the screen.
As with the series opener, there are a handful of priceless moments worth slogging through the show for. First among these is the concluding performance of Fokine's legendary "Spectre de la Rose," created for Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina in 1911, and here danced, for the first and only time, by Fonteyn (the shooting took place about three years ago, when the series was first produced in England) and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Fonteyn (approaching 60 at the time) transforming herself into a teen-ager palpitating with dreams of first love qualifies as magic if anything does, and Baryshnikov as her rapturous genie is no less spellbinding. The filming, however, is substandard -- abysmally lit, cut and framed. Other program highlights include a moving interview with Nijinsky's daughter Kyra, and the opening sequence in which Fonteyn, on the steps of the Parthenon, acts out her vision of Isadora Duncan and her inspirational roots.
Otherwise, the program zigzags through a rambling historical patchwork of scant order or illumination, with dance illustrations that are uneven at best (the work of Martha Graham, for example, is exemplified not by a clip of the Graham company, but by mediocre choreography from disciple Robert Cohan performed by a British troupe). And when Fonteyn tells us that "every Italian, of course, knows instinctively how to speak with his hands," one wonders whether the series underwent any editing at all.