THRILLING AND CHILLING (and, sometimes, spilling), the John Curry Skaters may be the best intown antidote to August.

In last year's visit to the frozen-over stage at the Kennedy Center Opera House, Curry and company proved that ice skating could be an art form akin to dance. Collaborating with choreographers Twyla Tharp, Peter Martins and others, Curry put art on ice, once and for all.

Olympic gold medalist Curry and his skaters achieve a grace, fluidity and freedom that earthbound dancers can only hint at. The 13 members of the troupe are well-trained and expressive, combining their athleticism with aesthetics. The skaters perform dance elevations that most of us would find difficult to attempt on solid ground. And with the Opera House open to the back wall, the choreography has an exciting visual depth.

We're not used to such speed on a stage, and it can be startling to see Curry flashing in and out of the circle of skaters, or the troupe whizzing backward with abandon, headed for the orchestra (and the audience). Particularly impressive is David Santee, who employs blurring speed and jawdropping mazurkas in "The Russian Sailor Dance."

This visit boasts four world premieres, including Jean-Pierre Bonnefous' "Remember Me," a closely danced pas de deux for Curry and Patricia Dodd that depicts a farewell suffused with erotic memories, and Curry's "Skating Class," an idealized morning workout that catalogues the basic elements of skating, building in complexity and difficulty to music by Chopin, Gounod, Glazunov, Joplin and Gershwin. Curry's virtuosity and relaxed authority are most apparent in this piece.

Returning from last year's repertoire are Curry's pensive solo "Moonskate," choreographed by Eliot Feld, with silvery lighting by Jennifer Tipton, and the energetic "Burn," set to Jean-Michel Jarre's pulsing electronic music. Laura Dean's witty choreography conjures the spirit of fire, playful and dangerous. The red-suited skaters become flickering, dancing tongues of flame; Curry is the white- hot spark that leads them in the dance.

The John Curry Skaters provide a night of exhilarating fun. And the breeze from the stage is pretty cool, too.

THE JOHN CURRY SKATERS -- At the Kennedy Center Opera House through August 24.