Dancers often perform with sprains and bruises, but not too many of them would risk a solo performance when they're six months pregnant. Karin Vartowski did just that this weekend at her Northwest Washington studio when she presented a collection of character studies called "Moments and Memories."

Perhaps because of her condition, Vartowski seemed more mime than dancer. The 25 vignettes, ranging from a few seconds to several minutes in length, were constructed from a very limited modern dance vocabulary, but Vartowski's expressiveness and skill as a performer transcended steps. Her characters included a tightrope dancer preparing for a performance; a very weary "The Whore (Vienna, 1945)"; and a beserk strawberry picker gorging herself on the crop. Particularly effective was a piece entitled "Loss -- the historic auction of Vincent van Gogh's 'le Cypres et L'Arbre en Fleurs.'" To the taped voice of the auctioneer, Vartowski stiffened, reacting to each new bid for the painting as though it were a physical blow.

Although uninhibited as a performer, Vartowski choreographs with economy. She's not afraid of simplicity and knows when to remain still. Two trifles to Peggy Lee songs could serve as a model for other area choreographers determined to set works to popular music, yet less successful than Vartowski in the juxtaposition of movement to pop lyrics.