Participation in the arts is often a means for dealing with both the problems and possibilities in life. The involvement of children in the arts would seem to need no further justification. This is the shared philosophy of Melvin Deal and Rima Wolff, the directors of two area children's dance groups who view performances as outlets for self-expression and for maturation. While each group has a different emphasis -- Deal's stresses professional polish and Wolff's spontaneity -- both exist primarily to provide an environment for personal growth.

The Studio Concert of Melvin Deal's African Heritage Dance Gallery on Saturday featured students of his school and the D.C Youth Ensemble in a Carnival de Caribbean. Choreographed by Clara Rivera, Carol Watkins-Foster and Garthon Moore, the dances were rituals of work, play and courtship from the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Jamaica and Trinidad. The evening's theme was community exploration of folkways: By seeing how other Afro-American cultures contend with life experiences, these children learn of possibilities for coping in their own lives.

Wolff's Primary Movers who performed at Glen Echo Park on Sunday ranged in age from 7 to 12. This group also explored the idea of cultural heritage in reenactments of Greek myths, the creation of the world and an "original fable." Wolff recognized the opportunity to deal with sophisticated issues through movement. Not even the question of death was ducked: In a very moving rendition of women's seasoning from birth to old age and death, the children portrayed joy in life and a quiet acceptance of the inevitability of losing friends to death. The performers found fertile ground for creativity in Frank Cassel's sensitive accompaniment on Banjo, guitar, drum and flute.