Reprinted from yesterday's late editions It really strains memory to recall anything in local cultural history of the past decade which parallels the public opening Thursday night of "City Dance '77," the festival of resident dance troupes the Washington Performing Arts Society is sponsoring at the Warner Theater this week.

It was more than a matter of the high voltage performances and the tumultuous enthusiasm that greeted each one. The occasion went beyond a mere theatrical event - it was plainly a watershed in the city's artistic evolution.

You could sense all this before the lights dimmed, indeed in the street and lobby beforehand. The crowd, which came remarkably close to filling the 1,800-seat theater, was infected with a tingle of excitement, a sense of shared anticipation. And if everyone was keyed up for something special, they got what they came for.

What happened at the Warner Thursday night was a genuine "implosion," a sudden coming together of charged components with detonating impact. And if it is a cliche to say that the whole was greater than the sum of the parts, so be it, but that's the truth.

"City Dance '77," which actually began Tuesday with two days of performances for area schoolchildren, was designed to show off the creative and performing talent of Washington's native dance companies: to bring the dancers and their audience together in a convivial theatrical setting: and to symbolize the actual and potential resurgence of the city's downtown night life.

The simultaneous fulfillment of all these aims Thursday nigh however, added something that possibly no one could forsee - a euphoric pride of place, a spirit of togetherness that was as real and as important as anything which occurred on stage.

What happened on stage, though, also outran expectation. The festival's first evening performance featured three troupes - the Maryland Dance Theater, directed by Larry Warren and Dorothy Madden; the Washington Ballet, directed by Mary Day; and the Capitol Ballet, directed by Doris Jones and Claire Haywood.

Each of them has been seen here many times, in many places and seasons, but none ever to better advantage.

Another significant factor was the Warner Theater itself. The refurbished old movie palace at 13th and E Streets NW turns out to be a superb locus for dance.

Although none of the works presented, with one exception, were new to these companies, all of them took on fresh life in this setting - the choreography itself was enhanced by the Warner stage, the excellent lighting,and an audio system at least good enough to mollify regret at the lack of live music.

It would be impossible to single out highlights in an evening so filled with them. The Maryland Dance Theater started things off with a superbly trim, vital account of Bill Evans' "For Betty," followed by the owlish wit of Art Bauman's "Errands."

The Washington Ballet's "Serenade" was an amazingly good rendering of this Balanchine masterwork for a troupe that is admittdly "preprofessional."

And the Capitol Ballet displayed a range that extended from classic virtuosity to jazzy flair in "Dance for Six," "Bach Vibrations," and "Tarantell."

The festival runs one more evening, and if you want to see what Washington dance is all about, you'll find a way to catch it.