The dictionary defines "gesture" as "a movement, or movements collectively, of the body, or of part of the body, to express or emphasize ideas, emotions, etc.," encompassing a world of body language, ripe for choreographic exploration. The sublest head scratch, leg shift, slump or stiffening -- movements most of us take for granted -- can, in a dance, tell us about the human condition.

"Gesture in Dance" is the focus of Friday night's "Evening of Exchange," an informal series sponsored by the Dance Exchange at its Lansburgh Building studio. The program includes performances by four area troupes, with four contrasting treatments of gesture. Sharon Wyrrick and Full Circle will dance parts of several pieces that transform pedestrian shrugs, walks and other matter-of-fact activities into multi-faceted scenes of group behavior. Martha Brim's "Faded Love," danced by four members of CODA, meshes prom dresses and Patsy Cline ballads with a collection of Fifties poses that seem culled from beach-party flicks and bubble-bath ads.

Priscilla Barden must have spent time observing mental patients, for both her duet "Edge" and the quartet "What Do You Do With the Pieces?" fix on repetitive rocking, clutching, pointing, twisting and other contorted, unnatural gestures. Finally, Tish Carter's "Fish," a danced card game, is played out.

Discussion follows the performance.