When local choreographer Liz Lerman sets out to make a dance, she's got a lot of choices before her. Should she let her prodigious satirical gifts run wild? Should her heart play leader this time, or her brain? Will her half-intense, half-whimsical stage presence take over the creation, or will that strong sense of community involvement convince her that collective company efforts mean the most? Should form outweigh content, or vice versa?

The solutions to these questions -- most of them wise and wonderful ones -- were unveiled by Lerman and the Dance Exchange Performance Company this past weekend at the Dance Place. During the course of four diverse pieces, one had the chance to see and hear the choreographer as wit, intellectual, poet and message-maker, and to revel in the variety of performing bodies -- young, old, trained and untrained.

"Docudance: Current Events" was Lerman's version of Woody Allen's new "Stardust Memories." As the choreographer prattled on about art, and society, and meaning, a demented domestic scene unfolded behind her, drolly acting out snippets of Lerman's past choreographic ouevre. It was refreshing to see an artist so aware of her own tendencies, still more refreshing to watch her exaggerate them to hilarious effect.

"Journey: A Trilogy" started out soaring, then sagged, finally recovered.

Lerman's opening solo, a brilliant mix of words (excerpts from Peter Handke's "Self Accusation") and gestures, had the choreographer speaking terse phrases about human development ("I stood up. I had to move. I moved . . .") while summoning up great streams of literal and figurative movement counterparts. When the lone voice and body multiplied into chorus and crowd, the superbly wrought connections grew lax and diffuse, but finally regained their power in one last pulsing surge of dance and song.