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Thursday, January 7, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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John Voorhees

`Maple Leaf Rag' Comes To Life In `Dance In America'

What a swan song! "Maple Leaf Rag" was the 180th work the great dancer/choreographer Martha Graham created in her illustrious career that ended with her death in 1991.

And while Graham was noted for the stark drama with which she infused her best-known dances, none of those 180 works could have been more fun than her last witty creation. Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" was one of her favorite pieces of music - she claimed it could always cheer her up - and the work she created using Joplin's music couldn't fail to cheer anyone.

We're all privileged to see it in a "Dance in America" program PBS airs at 10 p.m. Sunday. If you love dance, this is not to be missed. Graham created a dance that spoofs some of her well-known choreographic trademarks while, at the same time, using many of her movements in fresh and energetic ways. It's an absolute delight, funny and entertaining, but with breathtaking demands on the dancers.

The program also includes a striking dance from the 1930s, "Steps in the Street," as well as one from the 1940s, "El Penitente." Together the three works, covering a career of 60 years, provide a varied example of what a genius Graham was - and what an impressive, valuable legacy she left us.

Short takes: PBS' "Health Quarterly," airing at 11 a.m. Sunday on KCTS-TV, looks at some practices helping to raise health care costs, plus an AIDS update. An in-studio panel also ponders the feasibility of President-elect Clinton's plans to secure health care for all Americans.

If you enjoyed the A&E miniseries in which funnyman Michael Palin went "Around the World in 80 Days," you'll also enjoy "Pole to Pole," a new travel saga that Palin undertakes, beginning with a two-hour episode at 5 and 9 p.m. Sunday, in which he goes from the North Pole through Finland and into Russia, on his way to the South Pole. Once again Palin's wry and comic observations about his travels are highly entertaining.

HBO does a little self-promotion with "HBO's 20th Anniversary," a 90-minute retrospective at 10:15 p.m. Saturday on HBO (with additional airings Jan. 13, 18, 21, 24 and 29). Obviously the emphasis is on comedy, since that was originally one of HBO's strong suits and it often featured performers in their early days who are now big name stars.

But in recent years HBO has come to be known as much for its TV movies and its documentaries as comics, and, even more recently, has done some of the best sitcoms on TV, stuff like "Dream On" and "The Larry Sanders Show." Any network would be proud of the best original programming HBO has done.

It's doubtful whether a future HBO salute will include "Hotel Room," a dramatic trilogy created by David Lynch, premiering at 11 p.m. tomorrow. It consists of three short dramas, all set in the same hotel room. Two are directed by Lynch and written by Barry Gifford. Both are tedious and dreary. The middle episode, however, written by Jay McInerney and directed by James Signorelli, is wickedly funny and brittle and features good performances by Griffin Dunne, Deborah Unger, Chelsea Field and Mariska Hargitay.

New kid on the block: The interviewing skills of Charlie Rose are well-known by insomniacs who used to catch him on CBS' late-night news, and he's a welcome addition to PBS with his one-hour weeknight show that premiered Monday night with a mix of guests that included Spike Lee, Barbara Walters and a couple of foreign affairs experts.

PBS intends Rose to be an intelligent alternative to the likes of Arsenio Hall, Jay Leno and the other late-night babblers and WNET-TV in New York, where the show originates, airs Rose at 11 p.m. KCTS-TV, in its infinite wisdom, is putting on Rose at 1:30 a.m., which just about guarantees no one will ever see his show unless they tape it. Another smooth move by Channel 9.

Video notes: If you missed CBS' version of "The Amy Fisher Story" Sunday night, "Casualties of Love," because you were watching the ABC version (which was the worst of the three), be advised that cable's USA Channel will show the CBS film at 9 tonight. . . . Gordon Curvey's "Music Inner City" program moves to 1 a.m. Saturdays, starting tomorrow night, on KTZZ-TV. . . . KCTS-TV repeats its "Golden Apple Awards" at 11 a.m. Saturday. . . . KOMO-TV does a "Just 4 Kids" special that looks at substance abuse at noon Saturday.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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