Folk dances evolved without benefit of choreographers and were intended for village squares, not stages. It is difficult to present ethnic art in a way that is theatrically viable while remaining true to its traditions, and the Bohemian Folk Ballet of Prague's program of folk songs and dances presented last night at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall listed toward the theatrical.

On the plus side were the beautiful, richly embroidered costumes and a program that varied the usual group dances of celebration and exhibitions of virtuosity with a gentle courting dance and folk songs, expressively sung (unamplified) by Zdena Czivisova and Julius Skoda.But in many of the dances, the costumes became uniforms and the choreography was polished to a slick.

The competition dances were suitably exciting. "Shorovy" was a stamping match between village girls and boys, and the "Rebels Dance" showed the men as virile, hatchet-slinging warriors, a hair-raising spectacle to any despot. A gypsy dance began sinuous and slow and ended in a tempestuous flurry of steps, and the "Poppy Dance" allowed the women to show how nicely they till the fields. The dancers were likable and exuberant, and the dances showed fascinating movement variances among regions, but the careful choreography, right down to the encores, made one wonder how much Czehhoslovakian "folk art" was on display.