You can't always expect to see dancing at a dance performance these days. You'll probably see some kind of movement -- pacing, posing, manipulation of props, mouths busy spelling out bizarre oral messages -- but it might not have anything to do with what we generally think of as concert dance. Where, the frustrated spectator wonders, are the bursts of speed? Do these performers possess even rudimentary dance technique? Why won't they shut up and let their muscles and limbs do the talking?

Douglas Dunn, one of New York's most intelligent and uncategorizable choreographers, has, since his first solo performance in 1973, confronted audiences with a series of works that revel in stasis, motion, and the spectator's reaction to both.

Once a member of Merce Cunningham's mercuric troupe, this most elegant and easy dancer has created some of the most extreme theatrical encounters imaginable. In "101," he lay motionless on top of a huge structure he'd built in his loft for four hours a day, six days a week for a total of ten weeks. "Octopus" had him walking on the backs of viewers' chairs, handing out red balls (which the audience threw back onto the stage), and encouraging other sorts of friendly participation. Contrarily, his long solo, "Gestures in Red," systematically investigates detailed movement phrases and an ever-expanding spatial domain.

More recently, Dunn and his small company of exceptional dancers -- among them Diane Frank and Deborah Riley, a fine choreographic duo in their own right -- have presented evening-long works notable for their careful, well-modulated style and multiple variations on a single subtle theme. "Game Tree," to be performed this weekend at the Dance Place, is one such dance. Set to a live score by musician/composer Linda Fisher, "Game Tree" offers a glimpse into Dunn's ever- fluctuating notion of just what it means to move -- or not to. DOUGLAS DUNN AND DANCERS -- This Saturday and Sunday at 8 and 10 p.m. The Dance Place, 2424 l8th Street NW. Tickets $7, $6 seniors and students. Call 462-1321. SHALL WE DANCE?

There's nothing quite like competitive ballroom dancing. A veritable subculture, it comes with its own rules, fashions, steps. The men dance with backs straight as steel girders, determined to make their partners look as light and buoyant as soap bubbles. The dances range from the ever-so-stylized waltz and foxtrot to the wild histrionics of the Paso Doble and Jive. For a splendid introduction to the form, check out the Mideastern championships and fall festival of the U.S. Amateur Ballroom Dancers Associations Inc. this Sunday. They will be held from 1 to 9 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington. Admission is $10. For further information, call 527-0642 or 692-5510.