For the most of us, tap dancing's a nostalgia trip -- Fred Astaire, Ruby Keeler, Shirley Temple, Bojangles Robinson.For Jane Goldberg, it's a vital, eminently workable dance form with a glorious past and a definite future.

For the last six years, the Washington-born but New York-based Goldberg has devoted her life to ferreting out the great old hoofers, interviewing and writing about them, arranging their gigs. In the process, she's become quite a tapper herself. Having studied with the masters, she's inherited a wealth of classic techniques and routines, but she's gone a step farther and forged her own, original tap vocabulary.

Her performance last night at the Washington Project for the Arts was a dear patchwork quilt of tap magic, music which ranged from Art Tatum to Blondie, hilarious verbal monologues, and audience participation. Dressed in a series of thrift-shop glad rags, Goldberg tapped on all manner of surfaces, explored an astonishing array of odd and difficult rhythmic patterns, talked and tapped simultaneously and improvisationally, combined modern-dance arms and torso with rapid-fire hoofing, even tap-clogged to Dylan.

Perhaps the cleverest number was "The Neighbor," adapted from Poe's "The Raven." As Goldberg blithely tapped away, a round, harried-looking man named Stewart Alter recited a poem about the trials and tribulations of a tap dancer's next-door neighbor. Fed up, Alter challenged the dancer to a tap duel, and joined her in a foot-and-fists dialogue which brought down the house.

The performance will be repeated tonight.