Call it "Shuffle Off to Bethany" or "Ballet by the Beach," a summer dance program at the ocean resort of Bethany Beach, Del., invites visitors to learn the basics when they tireof nurturing their tans.

"You can't imagine how wonderful it is," says program head Joe Jeff of Washington, to beginan early morning ballet class at the bandstand on the beach, "and see porpoises leaping at your footsteps."

The three-week program, now in its fourth year, offers a seven-day series of classes and workshops for $197, including beachfrontdorm accomodations with indoor/outdoor pool.

But if you're a tourist or resident of Bethany Beach and happen to passby the bandstand, you can join the class that day for free.

That's space permitting, of course, but, says Jeff, "No one's been turned away yet."

To demonstrate what they've learned in a week, the classes put on a half-hour show at theboardwalk bandstand Fridays at 7:30 p.m., usually drawing several hundred spectators. This year the theme is vaudeville -- "Shuffle Off to Bethany."

The classes, which began Aug. 4, will continue through Aug. 23. This week the lessons feature mime and dance improvisation. Next week the schedule includes ballet, tap and jazz from 8 a.m. to noon and modern dance fro 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Novices should feel no apprehension about joining the classes, sponsored by Washington's Open University. The "bulk" of those who sign up for the paying series, says Jeff, "have had little or no experience." About 70 people have signed up so far this season for one of the weeks.

Students in the past, says Jeff, have included an Episcopal priest, housewives, "lots of teachers" and sometimes even professional dancers. The average age is "25to 35", but the youngest is 3 and the oldest 87."

The classes are taught by dance professionals, including Jeff and his wife Nancy Lynner, who have formed a mime group, "The Wonder Company," which often performs at schools.

If you're packing for the beach, there's ome more item to fit in amongthe swimming suits and Solarcaine. Many people tell him, says Jeff, "If we'd only known, we could have brought our tapshoes."