Walk into a performance by New Moves, one of D.C.'s youngest (about a year old) and smallest dance companies (two members), and you're struck not only by the way these women shuffle, leap, collapse and fly, but by the profusion of unexpected objects and other visual stimuli that loom large in their works. Tires -- heaps of them in multicolored hues -- play a major role in Tish Carter's "Three Sections of Metaphors." At various times they represent giant coins and poker chips, components in a factory setting and, finally, birdbaths and fishponds. Decks of cards figure prominently, too -- so much so that a certain draw determines a particular movement sequence. Then there are the men in business suits, the pendulum and the live goldfish who makes a brief appearance at the last moment.

It's Carter who delights in this bounty of "things" and in the gestures and manipulations that they inspire. More a performance artist than a dancer, she knows how to turn an ordinarily mundane task or activity into a wildly theatrical adventure. The other creative half of New Moves, Nancy Galeota, expresses herself in vastly different terms: Her pieces look much "dancier" and are often accompanied by dialogue or sound collages. In "Weeds," a duet to a score of barking dogs and soothing natural noises, she concentrates on the myriad patterns that two sets of feet can make. The two women travel together on diagonal paths, sometimes skittering, sometimes breaking into a "Teaberry Shuffle," then grapevining their legs one across the other. The partnership is smooth and careful and later, when the dance opens up to include supported falls and friendly tugs, highly personal as well.

"New Moves" is a much-needed addition to the local dance scene: two women making individual, contrasting works, sharing in their performance and expanding our notion of what dance is. NEW MOVES -- Friday and Saturday at 8 at Washington Project for the Arts, 400 Seventh Street NW. Tickets $6, $5 for students through college and adults over 65. Call 347-8304.