SOME ARTISTS toil in obscurity for years. Others, such as choreographer Molissa Fenley, skyrocket to fame before they've forged even a handful of works. The young artist's second dance, "Energizer," created in l980, catapulted her to celebrity; Fenley and company's incredible speed, athleticism and endurance seemed the perfect expression of a culture fascinated by fitness.

The daughter of a foreign service officer, Fenley spent her early childhood in the States, her adolescence in Nigeria and Spain, and her college years at Mills College in California.

This variegated upbringing is evident in her work. The African influence shows up in the propulsive, incessant quality of her movement, and in the loose and rhythmic gestures of the arms, hips and head. The California influence is subtler; she has let it be known that running and weightlifting have had as much to do with her art as dance technique, and she exhibits that peculiarly West Coast radar for all that is new, slightly shocking and terribly trendy.

For example, her latest evening-length piece, "Hemispheres," set to music by the gifted jazz composer Anthony Davis, purports to be about the right and left sides of the brain, Western versus Third World cultures, and the rational versus instinctive forces in our lives. Add to that the fact that she and the two other women in her company wear costumes designed by Rei Kawakubo, the darling of the avant-garde fashion set, and you get the picture: heavy and hip, but ultra-exciting. MOLISSA FENLEY AND DANCERS -- This Friday at 7:30, Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.