Asian music, theater and dance have often been described by Westerners as mysterious, complex and thoroughly inscrutable. If your budget won't get you abroad to study these forms, you can still learn about them at this weekend's Asian Festival at Montgomery College. The program features two U.S.- based dance companies that approach the dances of Japan and India in immediate and invigorating ways.

Friday evening, Saeko Ichinohe and Company, whose members make their home in New York City, will present an evening that meshes the traditional dancing and music of Ichinohe's native Japan with American modern dance. Stillness counts for just as much as action here; a dance with its roots in a haiku poem is done to the music of Bach.

The six-member troupe, led by the haunting, dainty Ichinohe, will perform five works, among them "Niwa" (Japanese garden), "Go Za"(Japanese mat), "Willow Tree" and "Variation for Taiku."

Carolyn Kay, artistic director of "Rhythms and Visions of India and the Middle East," has spent much of her life traveling in the East, absorbing the centuries-old movement of India in particular and bringing it home to her students in this country. Saturday evening, Kay and the three other women who make up her ensemble will offer a glimpse into several different strains of India's dance tradition: the classical temple dances with their intricate hand and arm gestures; folk dances, including one that involves the balancing and manipulation of plates; and dance dramas based on ancient myth.

ASIAN FESTIVAL -- Friday and Saturday at 8. Montgomery College Performing Arts Center, Montgomery College, Rockville Campus, Route 355 and Mannakee Street, Rockville. Tickets are $10 for both evenings, $6 for a single event. Call 279- 5301.