`Off Center': two avant-garde entries

Alive From Off Center: Men Die Sooner, and Endance PBS, Monday, 10-10:30 p.m., check local listings. Men Die Sooner: Tom Cayler, performer. Co-writers: Clarice Marshall, Kay Cummings, Tom Cayler. Choreographer: Clarice Marshall. Producer/director: Niles Siegel. Endance: Timothy Buckley, choreographer. Director: John Sanborn. Music: ``Blue'' Gene Tyranny.

``Alive From Off Center'' continues merrily on its way in its fourth season, determinedly and sometimes grimly avant-garde.

This week - the third in the current eight-week, half-hour series - the focus in the initial segment is on performance artistry. Tom Cayler caricatures the secret fears of American men about their manhood and mortality.

A whirling, swirling, frantic m'elange of movement and ideas, Cayler's act is a nonstop frenetic dance of paranoia. It is almost unbearably fidgety, embarrassingly self-revealing, disturbingly honest, only occasionally funny.

Most viewers will emerge confused rather than enlightened, unnerved rather than amused. It has much to say about our society, but even more to say about Tom Cayler and his attitude toward his own masculinity.

If you decide to watch, don't expect entertainment but, rather, a kind of confused adventure in self-discovery by a choreographed dervish.

``Endance,'' by contrast, seems an island of clear-cut rationality and sensitivity. Dancer/choreographer Timothy Buckley explains why he gave up dance for his current prosaic life in the costume shop at New York's Public Theater.

It is a fascinating and offbeat personal memoir, including excerpts from videos and performance tapes as well as comments by Mr. Buckley and by those who know him and his work. The video is not merely a commentary on the world of institutionalized dance and the life of an artist in today's society; it also delves into the thoughts of an individual artist who is searching for himself.

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