Last summer after Jan Van Dyke's Dance Project closed its doors, it looked as though Washington had lost not only one of its most important dance companies, but something almost as rare -- an accessible performing space. Saturday night's Faculty Concert which opened The Dance Place, made it clear that the 18th Street Studio will continue to play a central role in D.C.'s dance community.

Artistic director Carla Perlo gathered a collection of area dancers, choreographers and musicians who presented a program of familiar pieces, premiers and works-in-progress to an enthusiastic crowd that packed the large, loft-type space. Diane Floyd's refreshingly nonliteral "Mothersong" contrasted gentle, cradling motions to long-held balances in a piece of great contentment and calm that exhibited Floyd's skill as a dancer and promise as a choreographer. Elly Canterbury also showed her considerable charm as a performer in her yet-to-be-completed "For A.W. -- in honor of his 100th birthday, October 4."

The hit of the evening was Cathy Paine's "Pick-Up," wherein Paine raced around like an exhausted elf forced to perform a marathon collection of movements to the guitar music of Bill Munroe. Paine, a good dancer and genuine comic, has a gift for creating steps that look individual without strain.

Eric Hampton darted through a quicksilver variation from Hans Van Manen's "Song Without Words" and Perlo contributed "Opening a collaboration with musican Kevin Campbell. Perlo, also co-director of D.C. Whell Productions, is known for her work with musicians, and it was evident from this concert that music will be an important part of The Dance Place.