The Dance Place, a major artists' haven and performing space in Washington, yesterday announced its participation in a newly established National Performance Network (NPN), a program to expand touring opportunities and national visibility for smaller, innovative arts troupes.

"It's a plot to break down the isolation of artistic communities in this country," said David White, who conceived NPN and is its director. White, also director of New York's Dance Theater Workshop -- a leading showcase for contemporary dance -- was in town yesterday to attend a meeting of the Washington Dance Alliance and a news conference. Dance Place is Washington's closest equivalent to DTW, and it has been selected as one of the network's 14 "primary sponsors" throughout the country.

In the first season ('85-'86) of a two-year pilot program, NPN will enable Dance Place to present four out-of-town dance attractions (the New Dance Ensemble, Douglas Dunn & Dancers and Bebe Miller, among them) in one- or two-week residencies capped by weekend performances.

One of NPN's goals is to overturn the "one-night stand" tradition of dance touring in this country. Another is to move new work of quality around the map, so that Liz Lerman, for example -- a notable Washington choreographer -- can perform in Los Angeles. Still another goal is to upgrade artists' income from touring -- NPN requires that minimum fees (an average of $8,000 a week for a troupe of six) be paid.

"The most we've been able to pay artists in the past was $2,000," said Carla Perlo, artistic director of Dance Place. "The network will subsidize over a third of our presenting costs, but it still means a huge new commitment on our part. Even filling our houses every night won't cover it. I'm willing to stick my fund-raising neck way out for this, but it'll take a very positive response from the Washington dance community and audiences." To ensure that artists from all regions will benefit, NPN also requires that two of a primary sponsor's four attractions come from outside New York. Only two, moreover, need be dance -- smaller theater, music and multidisciplinary attractions can also be selected. White also looks for a "foot-in-the-door" effect -- once a troupe's travel expenses are covered by NPN, it's expected that other, "secondary" sponsors will book it for lower fees.

NPN was made possible by major seed grants from the Ford Foundation, and the Dance and Inter-Arts programs of the National Endowment for the Arts. Besides Washington and New York, other cities with primary sponsors are Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Boulder/Denver, Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle.