It takes gumption to make a dance for 11 dancers, especially on a tighy budget with free-lance dancers. But Cathy Paine of The Dance Place has come up with "The Gathering," a 20-minute work about the relationships between an alternately tense and loving community, or about the ways in which four men and seven women can mesh, separate and regroup while filling a space with careful shapes and patterns.

"The Gathering," part one of a dance to be completed by springtime, focuses on individuals and group, equalizes score (a jazz- rock fusion by Steve Bloom) and steps, makes one aware of intricate pulses and rhythms, and presents varied, simultaneous activities. Best of all, it brings together a collection of D.C.'s finest dancers, among them Ellen Grey Denker, Beth Spicer, Betsy Eagen, Martha Brim, Jeff Bliss and six other dynamos.

This new opus shares the bill with two of Paine's works of l980, "Bedtime Story" and "Rain." The first, a duet made specifically for Denker and Spicer, focuses on the interplay between a young woman and her nocturnal alter ego; "Rain," a group dance that unfolds in a series of vignettes, explores our many reactions -- emotional and associative -- to the title phenomenon. CATHY PAINE AND FRIENDS, Saturday and Sunday at 8 at The Dance Place, 2424 18th Street NW. $6, $5 for students. Call 462-1321.