Watching Colette Pfanstiehl's varied choreography at W.P.A. last night, one had the sense of watching a talent just beginning to come into focus. The most ambitious pieces on the program were "Installation I" and "Inclined Cycle-10 Minutes," both built around works by Washington-area sculptors.

While neither dance was entirely successful, both were memorable and intelligent attempts to explore a sculptural space with dancers' means.

In "Installation I" Pfanstiehl and Beth Burkhardt, both comely and supple dancers, improvised around the outskirts of Nade Haley's construction of panels and wires without ever quite managing to break into the space. While the sculpture itself, with its strong diagonals, was dynamic, for the dancers it became a kind of trap, limiting motion.

"Inclined Cycle-10 Minutes" drew its mood and effects from Thierry Rosenheck's beautiful snake of pale helium-filled balloons which rose from the coiled rope on the floor like light bulbs or ideas -- one could go on endlessly providing similes, the images were so mysterious and suggestive.

The sculpture itself was in continual light motion and allowed th dancers much more stitude for movement than Haley's piece, but here, too, they didn't seem to be able to quite figure out what to do with it.

Despite beautiful moments -- one, a glimpse of Pfanstiehl's face through a balloon held in her arms -- the movement was finally too slapstick and undirected to match the delicacy of the sculpture. One was left with a frustrating sense of missed opportunities.

"Time Poem," the most successful of the later pieces, opened with four dancers walking around the stage at different velocities. They seemed to be creating time out of a vacuum through the deliberateness of their movements.